The Man From UNCLE

I finally got round to seeing the new The Man From UNCLE film and I loved it. However, the verdict in the Robot household wasn't unanimous; the film has had mixed reviews, and my husband wasn't massively keen on it.
I'd had high hopes from the first trailer. The film was set in the 1960s, like the original television programme, and I'd really hoped they'd pull it off. Well, they did. The story starts in Berlin, and it looks like 1960s Berlin, and the film looks like a 1960s film - the colours look like those of a movie shot then. Even the font used for the titles looks like a 1960s font. The music is fantastic, and sounds very 1960s even though much of it was composed especially for the film.

The film is supposed to be set in 1963, but as I was watching I couldn't help feeling the costumes looked slightly later, so I was quite pleased to discover a interview with the costume designer, Joanna Johnston, where she mentions being especially influenced by copies of Vogue from between 1966 and 1968. The look of East German mechanic Gaby was, apparently, influenced by Jean Shrimpton, while villainess Victoria was apparently based on Marisa Berenson, though I thought she also looked very Catherine Deneuve.

And the women aren't the important bit: what about Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, you might wonder. Cavill is simply gorgeous. He has the sort of movie star face you rarely see any more, a vintage face made for this sort of film. He's great as Solo. I wasn't so convinced by Hammer at first, and he lacks David McCallum's ability to radiate Kuryakin's coldness, though he's a better actor than Cavill and I liked him as Kuryakin by the end.
Which leads us to the one thing I disliked about the film and agreed with Mr Robot on: there was too much exposition. We didn't need to know either character's backstory. In fact, I don't know why such complicated ones were invented at all, as they were given far more complicated backgrounds than pops up in the original The Man From UNCLE. If the limited ones they had worked for several whole series plus some films in the 1960s, they'd have been just fine here. We know they're spies, and anything more should be shown on screen through their actions. As the old saying goes, 'Don't tell, show'. The plot isn't especially deep or complex - in fact, it is very predictable - so there's no need for fussy histories or exposition to be worked into the plot.

I do think that how you feel about the film depends on your attitude towards 1960s Bond films, because that's what this felt very much like in some ways. There's an opening car chase - the Mr hated it, I wasn't particularly excited by it but didn't loathe it. It was lighter on gadgets than Bond films – think bug detectors and lasers for cutting wire fences, not exploding pens or flying cars – and also less exploitative, with merely the one scene of romance, and the worst you see in that is a lady with her back to you, still wearing her knickers. (Not 1960s knickers, I noticed.) Also, Victoria is a far stronger character than you see in many a Bond film, though Gaby was standard feisty totty.

Despite being lighter on girls and gadgets, it had the action and pace of a decent Bond film. It also has the predictability. I really enjoy Bond films (in fact, I've a sneaking liking for mindless action films generally, though I did draw the line at A Good Day To Die Hard) so wasn't going to have too many problems with this. If you're not a Bond fan, you probably won't like this.


  1. I enjoyed it, Himself didn't really. (His review is on his film blog world of blackout on blogspot if you are interested.)

    I thought Elizabeth Debicki was fantastic as Victoria as a pretty much unknown actress I think she has a fine career ahead of her.

    I have to say Henry Cavill doesn't do it for me visually so I couldn't get past the fact he really isn't a very good actor.

    1. I have now followed his blog. Though as he's rated The Third Man so low, I fear he and I have very different taste in films!

  2. I'm hoping to see this very soon, was always a fan of Solo and Kuryakin and have been dying to see this since the first trailer! It looks so very stylish!

    1. It does look utterly amazing. It's stupid but gorgeous. Sometimes you need that!

  3. I haven't had a chance to see this yet and doubt I will until it comes to Netflix, but I certainly want to. Any historically set movie is fair viewing game for me. :)

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. Looks-wise, it's gorgeous. It's a bit stupid, but hey, it's an action movie, and it's not as though the original programmes were intellectually challenging. Certainly a fun way to while away a wet afternoon.


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