Sunday, November 15, 2015

Video review: "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” cost a bundle to make and made not such a large bundle at the box office, so it’s already been written off as one of 2015’s biggest flops. Actually, it’s all disinformation and propaganda: this was probably the most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year.

Based (loosely) on the 1960s TV series, it pits East-versus-West superspies who are forced to join forces to get back the nuclear technology that’s been stolen. Henry Cavill plays CIA star Napoleon Solo, a rakish scamp who gets by on charm and improvisation. Armie Hammer is Illya Kuryakin, a KGB agent who’s all iron and cold fury.

They clash, they grudge, they clash some more.

Of course there’s a damsel, though she tends to distribute distress rather than needing to be saved from it. Alicia Vikander plays Gaby, a German mechanic whose dad was a Nazi scientist and is now at the center of the trouble. Napoleon goes for the frontal romantic assault, but she’s got eyes for the dour Russian.

Director Guy Ritchie breaks out every trick in his book, with lots of jump-cutting, musical interludes and time displacement. The movie is festooned with dashing suits, nifty gadgets, sexy villains and lots of color. The result is jazzy and loose, an ironic tug at the smug façade of the spy genre.

Forget what you’ve heard and remember this message (though you may have to destroy it afterward): “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is the best time this side of Bond.

Bonus features are pretty good, though the DVD comes with only one featurette, “A Higher Class of Hero.”

Upgrade to the blu-ray combo pack, and you add more making-of mini-docs: “Spy Vision: Recreating ‘60s Cool,” “Metisse Motorcycles: Proper -- And Very British,” “The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.,” “A Man of Extraordinary Talents” and “U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy.”



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