The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

“For the second time this year, I noticed that I had no plans for the current month’s Zipcar credit. So for the second time this year, that meant surprise IMAX trip! Actually, I don’t think surprise is the right word, but it sounds good. I’d actually planned this one out a couple weeks in advance, deciding if it was feasible or if I should make the road trip to Wahlburgers instead. It actually fit in quite perfectly (esp given the vacation crunch around its release) to save The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for an uber big screen show, which is what I did. The usual IMAX was closed for renovations (hoping to see The Walk there in Oct, so excited to see what got updated) so I had to go to the Natick location instead. The only previous time I’d been there was for a midnight of Spiderman (franchise 2 movie 1). Both times involved getting lost and being able to see Jordan’s and couldn’t figure out how to get there. I wasn’t driving last time.

Mixed feelings all around going in. Tepid on the cast. Jaded on the director. Unphased by the plot. Leery of the release date. Leading up to the release, I was worried that it would be a bad movie that I’d be forcing myself to see. I was surprised to hear that it was getting decent reviews. Not raves by any means, but a general consensus that it was sort of an innocuous film. Enjoyable enough, but nothing too special. That turned out to be about right.

Okay so we’ve got a movie based on the old 1960’s tv series of the same name, about an American teamed up with a Russian to do spy things. The film serves as an origin story of sorts. Despite my intense Nick and Nite education in classic TV, I’d never seen the show, but every time I heard the name, I was so confused about the acronym. So now, Guy Ritchie is taking the helm on this one. He’s cool. Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smokin’ Barrels are classic, but his more recent fare have been a little lackluster.

He may not have been up to the level of his seedy British underworld films, but his sleek style with bite worked really well here. Sure, far more style than substance with this movie, but dull storyline aside, things looked really good. And even better, they weren’t clear redo’s of his old stuff. My favorite scenes involved the bulk of the action occurring in the background while focusing in on the foreground. Quite humorous and an effective way to keep things simple.

Moving on to the cast, in general, I’m not really a fan of Henry Cavill, mostly because Man of Steel broke my heart into so many pieces. Ending the pre-movie trailers with one for Dawn of Justice only heightened the bad feels as we started the film. So he had a big bias hurdle to overcome, and I think he did eventually. To be fair, the character he was playing was meant to be charming and suave, so it’s reasonable that extended past the characters and into the audience. I don’t know that I’d trust him in a similar but non-showy role, but for a film where over the top is allowed, it worked.

Armie Hammer puzzles me. I wanna like the guy, and I do, but other than playing the Winklevii, he hasn’t really found his place. This is his second attempt at action (sort of) after Lone Ranger (let us never speak of that film again), and I kinda like him going that route. He’s certainly built for stunts, but he seems too passive of a person, and tonally it doesn’t quite work. In this movie, he provided a fair amount of comic relief, so maybe that could be something for him to try. I’d love to see him work with Judd Apatow and see if anything sticks there. Or maybe combine the two and join up on Mission Impossible, where he could learn from a true Hollywood leading man. IDK, I still can’t figure out what seems to be missing from his performances.

The one big standout for me was our villainess Elizabeth Debicki. I was mesmorized by her every time she was on screen. She’s had relatively few credits before this, but I really hope casting directors take notice. She had this icy stoicism that was also crazy sexy. I wouldn’t use the word restrained, but maybe controlled which was a good antithesis to Cavill’s showy-ness.

Oh and Jared Harris, I adore you, but the exaggerated cowboy American accent just doesn’t work.

As for the plot, eh what does it matter. That was mediocre. What worked was the interactions. Everyone always trying to one up each other. And I loved how balanced it was alternating wins between our two leads, so neither of them was ever proved superior to the others.

I don’t think much was gained by seeing it at the IMAX, other than the killer sound system and screen plus the temperpedic seats. But it was just good enough that I didn’t feel the excursion was a waste. And it restores my faith in many of the aforementioned players involved.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – \m/ \m/ \m/”

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