The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – reviewed by George

The first version of this was a sixties TV series that was a tongue-in-cheek homage to James Bond (I’m learning not to say rip-off: in Hollywood there is no theft, just homage). And this is a remake, using the same characters, but with new attitudes and relationships. The billing here is interesting: while Henry Cavill is top-billed in all the ads, on the cover and back of the DVD packaging, and in the cast crawl at the end of the film, Armie Hammer is top-billed at the beginning of the film.
At any rate, Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, the American agent, and Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, the Russian agent, and the two work respectively for the CIA and KGB. Alicia Vikander has the female lead as Gaby Teller. an auto mechanic in East Berlin (as a reboot, the film very logically takes place in the sixties).
The three main characters are introduced immediately, and there is a great car/car-and-foot/grappling hook and zipline chase.Then Solo’s handler Sanders (Jared Harris) and Kuryakin’s handler Oleg (Misha Kuznetsov) give the guys their orders, announcing that they are working together (a bitter pill).
The plot: Vinciguerrea Shipping and Aerospace Co. in Rome was founded by a Fascist fan (and friend) of Mussolini. It is now being run by his son Alexander (Luca Calvani) and Alexander’s wife Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), and Gaby’s uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) works there, which will provide entree. Gaby’s father was Dr. Udo Teller, whose atomic bomb research for the Nazis is thought to have been acquired by the Vinciguerra father, who definitely smuggled the Nazis’s gold to South America right after the war. So, Solo will be an art expert and will meet Victoria, and Gaby and her fiancee Illya will meet Uncle Rudi. And they will try to find and steal Udo’s work notes, if the company still has them.
At 25 minutes in, they arrive in Rome and begin to establish their identities. The exposition finally ends and the film proper begins at 40 minutes. Come on! Despite some good action sequences, that’s just too long to get the movie to where the real story can start, even when you’re introducing iconic spy characters from the past to a new audience. I think you have to take less than 40 minutes.
I also think the participants may have been hoping for a franchise; I know I certainly was. But imdb.com gives the budget as an estimated $75 million, and the worldwide gross as $109,645,109. Is that enough to prompt another entry? I was alternately excited and disappointed throughout, and had to conclude that the movie is pretty average. But hey, rent it for the thrills and drink during the talky parts.
Story by Jeff Kleeman & David Campbell Wilson and Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram,
Screenplay by Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram,
Directed by Guy Ritchie.

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