I got to see a pre-release of the new Guy Ritchie film “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” last night.
In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.
And we’re talking about this one:
Not this one:
The standard joke running through the “official” press guys last night was, “Superman and the Lone Ranger walk into a spy shop…”
While true, hardly original, as the overwhelming presence of that “joke” last night indicates.
Yes, Armie Hammer played the Lone Ranger in the disastrous Johnny Depp film. Yes, Henry Cavill plays Superman in the current crop of DC movies.
Let’s not forget Alicia Vikander, recently of Ex Machina fame, playing the East German mechanic taken over the wall by Cavill’s Solo, as Hammer’s Kuryakin pursues them with almost superhuman speed and aggression.
I’m not going to rehash a bunch of stuff you can find elsewhere on the ‘net; this one’s just going to be (hopefully) short and sweet/quick and dirty.
The film is definitely a Guy Ritchie standard, very much in the stylistic mold of his Sherlock Holmes films. Lots of zoom and retreats, sequence repeats with added information/explanation, etc. Which is great in a film like this. The opening car chase scene through East Berlin is awesome.
And the movie itself looks amazing. 1962 Berlin and Rome, it was like watching an old James Bond film, with better cinematography and film-stock (or digital… you get the idea).
But is the movie any good, you ask?
Why, yes. Yes it is. Sometimes I almost felt like I was watching Ocean’s 3 (in a good way). It’s a complex (but not convoluted… 2 different things) spy plot.
And, as bad as Armie Hammer was in The Lone Ranger, that’s how good he was in this as the oversized, overbrauned, psychotic, KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin. I do wish there had been more of his backstory, say, in flashbacks, instead of just Cavill reciting his life history during the obligatory “I’ve done my research on you” tet-a-tet when the two are forced to work together by their superiors.
It would have been nice to see some of that, to help explain how Kuryakin got the way he is. He is definitely the more intriguing character. Solo, while great at what he does, is pretty easy to get your mind around.
That being said, Henry Cavill seemed right at home playing a pompous thief who is only working for the CIA because he’d rather do that than be in jail. He plays it straight, and perfectly pulls off (as does Hammer) Ritchie’s dry, cutting wit, which provides the humor in the movie. While there are one or two sequences that had the audience laughing out loud, they were completely situational, made funny due to Solo and/or Kuryakin’s non-response to them.
Fun fact: watching the Lone Ranger and Superman argue over women’s fashion is hilarious.
So definitely, if you’re looking to have some fun, put this on your “to-see” list. Will there be a sequel? Who knows? Cavill might be too busy in the DC universe for that.
But, one never knows. Box office numbers have a funny way of clearing up and rearranging people’s schedules, so…