I have so many favorite films (and books for that matter) that the word favorite seems in danger of losing it’s impact and meaning. But I can’t help that I genuinely love so many of the stories I watch and read that I want to re-visit them over and over again.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of my many film loves. I never get tired of watching it and often use it as a cheery tonic when I am having a bad day. It’s just so much fun. Instead of doing a review, I thought I would mix things up a bit and tell you why I adore it so much.
- HENRY CAVILL – This is one of the few movies Cavill is in that I love. And it’s not because he can’t act, but for some reason he is cast in films which I just don’t think are very good. Still, even when he played Superman in Man of Steel, a film which was so convoluted that I didn’t know what was going on half of the time, I enjoyed watching him during its long running time. Honestly, I would watch him paint a wall. And yes, I’m just shallow enough to admit, that sometimes a movie can be saved by its’ eye candy. Of course, that is not necessary in this film. And thankfully, Cavill for once, ends up with a really fun role as American former thief turned playboy spy Napoleon Solo.
2. ARMIE HAMMER as ILYA KURAKIN -Here’s another piece of eye candy I enjoy, but unlike Cavill, in The Man from U.N.C.L.E I actually watched him for the role he played. Maybe it’s because I’m always drawn to Russian characters in any film, but I genuinely loved the reticent, loner, Russian spy. Cavill’s Solo, may appear to be the main character, but I think it is really Ilya who grounds this film and its story, keeping it from becoming ridiculous.
3. A RELUCTANT BROMANCE -I love a good bromance and this is one of my favorites. The fact that Solo and Ilya are spies for Cold War enemy nations who are then forced by their superiors to work together adds a nice spin to the somewhat unwilling friendship that develops between them. Maybe friendship is too strong a word. Thanks to their profession, both men are used to working alone, are highly suspicious and unwilling to trust anyone. But they do develop a fun rapport and mutual respect as they learn to rely on each other while still maintaining loyalties to their countries and keeping a wary eye on each other.
4. QUICK & WITTY DIALOGUE – One of my laments about modern film is that it often lacks the snappy, smart dialogue I appreciate in classic film. That is certainly not the case with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. There are one line zingers, combative repartee, serious conversation hidden behind a blase manner, all the things that make a dialogue driven film so enjoyable for me.
Napoleon Solo: I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.
Illya Kuryakin: Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.
5. THE 60’s FASHION -Since this film is actually based on the original television series of the same name, it retained its original time setting in the 1960’s. Both of the main female characters get to wear amazing clothing pieces and accessories inspired by this decade. Alicia Vikander, who plays Gabby, gets to wear the most fun, colorful items. When I watch this film, I like to pretend that I’m her parading around in that awesome wardrobe. Our villainess, Victoria Vinciguerra also benefits from this film wardrobe, becoming the mannequin for sleeker yet still gorgeous styles.
6. A FEMALE VILLAIN! -Film villains are usually men. I like to see a female “bad guy”, but I believe they are really hard to get right. Many times, they tend to overcompensate and can come across as a caricature or they act so bitchy that you can’t even enjoy watching them on-screen. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. avoids these pitfalls and delivers a cold, calm, calculated villainess with the power and smarts of a male villain while still displaying her femininity. Actress Elizabeth Debicki, makes Victoria so much fun to watch as she slinks around the screen. Even though you know you should hate her, you also kind of want to applaud her guts and determination.
7. THE 60’s AGAIN -I love how this movie is very much like the caper films of this decade. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, accomplishing the result of being downright entertaining. And although I already mentioned the fashion, the rest of the film has a very 60’s feel as well, from the European settings, colors, tongue-in-cheek humor and more. I enjoyed seeing the use of split screens which is something you rarely see in modern films but was pretty prevalent in the 1960’s.
8. FUN SCENES – I love when a film has memorable scenes which stick with you and help you remember the film long-term. This one has at least two and I honestly can’t choose which one I like best, but if you watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. keep an eye out for the hotel wrestling scene between Ilya and Gabby. The escape scene with Solo and Ilya, with Ilya using his motor boat skills and Solo calmly sitting in a truck watching Ilya trying to lose the armored guards is also a lot of fun.
If you haven’t seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E then you are in for a real treat. There are so many things to love and discover about this film. (And did I forget to mention Hugh Grant has a small role??) It was left open-ended for a potential sequel, which after a mediocre showing upon its initial release didn’t seem likely, but may still happen. At least it hasn’t been ruled out and I for one am keeping my finger crossed. So check out this guilty pleasure and let me know what you think. (Trust me, you’ll thank me later!)
Watch: On DVD, Amazon, or with a Cinemax subscription.