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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Back to the spies of the past

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 22, 2015 -- This movie, based on the 1960s TV show (the original movie based on this same show was released in 1964) is slickly done, supported by a solid cast, but the screenplay is a bit muddled. Once it gets free of the opening mire, it works well enough.

Borrowing from the spy genre and the mismatched cop partner genre (think “Tango and Cash”) this tongue-in-cheek actioner about a Soviet spy and American spy forced to work together during the Cold War packs plenty of action punch with a lot of wry humor. The humor works because of the well-drawn characters, headed up by crook-turned-spy Napoleon Solo (played by Henry Cavill of “Man of Steel”) and the volatile and intense Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer of “The Lone Ranger”). Also in the mix is the mysterious and lovely Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander of “Ex Machina”).

With this kind of caper-spy movie you need a good villain, and that role is amply filled by the ruthless Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki of “The Great Gatsby”). Victoria is like a deadly spider trying to get her hands on a secret nuclear formula worth billions. She is more than willing to use torture and murder to get it. Gaby's father, Udo (Christian Berkel of “Leningrad”) is being forced to use his formula to build a bomb for Victoria. Solo, Illya and Gaby are tasked with disabling the bomb and stealing the secret formula.

There are lots of complications in this mission, along with double-crosses, triple-crosses and double agents. The various nations involved have their own agendas, too. It finally all works out pretty much as you'd expect, but the path to the conclusion is very twisted. I thought the three lead characters, Solo, Illya and Gaby were interesting, and the three lead actors were effective. The casting choice of Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly was not only odd, it was a distraction.

The whole notion of Napoleon Solo being a crook who becomes a spy is not believable. He acts like James Bond, only smoother, cooler, smarter and more urbane, not like a crook at all. There is a lot of sexual tension between Gaby and Illya. The audience is teased with this attraction between these two characters for most of the film.

Clearly, this is meant to be a franchise, like the James Bond, or Mission Impossible films, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen because of weak box office totals. Too bad, the format, and the actors have potential. With a better screenplay, this could have been a sharper, less muddled movie, but it is good enough to rate a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)