Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Review)

One could say that Guy Ritchie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is all style, no substance. It's a statement I've heard several times already from critics and audiences, and though personally I enjoyed the film enormously, it's a sentiment I don't disagree with.

Henry Cavill appears to be totally relaxed in his debonair role of American spy Solo, alongside the also cool (unless insulted) Russian spy Illya played by Armie Hammer. Alicia Vikander completes the leading trio as a German spy called Gaby. There isn't a lot for Elizabeth Debicki to do as the villain of the film, but she seems to have fun as the elegant antagonist. Pretty much everyone is putting on an accent in this film, which I think just adds to the whole crazy, brazen production.

Standin' round.
The film features some rollicking fun set pieces, often making use of (surprisingly) dark humour. Ritchie makes great perspective choices, several times having violence or action sequences take place at a distance or in the background, juxtaposed with the cool, carefree confidence that is the default mindset of the leads.The film overall is very funny, and the audience in my theatre were won over by the charming characters by around halfway through the first scene. It helps that the leading men and their heated relationship is quickly communicated and easy for the viewer to understand; their dynamic something that the audience can latch on to from the beginning of the film.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s period setting is a slightly heightened reality. Actions and events that are just a little bit impossible take place throughout the film, and it can be a challenge to keep the audience suspending their disbelief. Ritchie never lets the film get too grounded, however. Almost constantly there are subtle reminders of the film's supernormal tilt, the best example being a scene in which a character spins a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, and it continues to spin at the same momentum for the rest of the scene.

Surfin' round.
Style oozes out into every area of this production. Scenes are edited together in a non-linear fashion, whereby we see the barebones of a conversation then flashback (often multiple times) to fill in the details that were originally withheld. This makes the twisting narrative both easier to follow than it would otherwise be, and keeps the audience engaged and on their toes.

Daniel Pemberton's score is the perfect combination of cool and quirky. It's rare to see a film score blended so effectively with the visuals, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s split-frame, picture-in-picture action montages are a consistent treat across all the senses. It's also enhanced by fantastic song choices, which are often diegetic. For example "Cry to Me" by Solomon Burke, which is played during a intoxicatingly cute dance scene.

Loungin' round.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s run time flew by. It's two hours well spent with likable characters being perfectly charming. I personally wanted to see our heroes start to get along a bit more at some point in the film, and work together as an efficient team, but alas they remained an (albeit entertaining) dysfunctional trio of bickering. Hopefully in the (likely) sequel we'll see some new dynamics from team U.N.C.L.E.