Grunt’s Friday Night Movie Micro-Review: The Man from UNCLE(2015)

Officially a flop, the 2015 Man from UNCLE film by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram remains a very stylish and satisfying cold war adventure.  I’m not the only one to think so; it was very popular among audiences.  Though, a grim proportion of reviewers found it ‘boring’ and the story unappealing.  What do you expect in a time of nonstop action and genocide by Death Star?  People get bored easily.


But, I was not bored with the subject of this movie.  I was around in 1963, roughly the time this takes place, and it successfully captures many of the things that were exciting about that time.  Things like Team Lotus and Grand Prix racing and French beauty Francoise Hardy (below, with a Melania Trump-like wry smile) and the most beautiful Ferraris ever made and cold war intrigue and JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Most of those things aren’t specifically in the movie; it just evokes them.  Just saying.  And, ok, I just threw that photo of Francoise Hardy up there because I felt like it and also because blogger C.W. Swanson put up a similar photo recently and reminded me of her.  But there are kick-ass F1 race cars in the film.


Some critics were actually seduced by the film.  James Berardinelli of ReelViews called it “one of those rare instances when a sequel wouldn’t just be warranted – it would be welcomed.”  I concur.  The words ‘stylish’ and ‘skillful’ come up a lot.

Because this is a micro-review, I won’t describe the plot, but there is some very good location shooting in and around Rome, Italy, and around the UK.  The cinematography is quite good, and the stylishness of certain scenes is worth the price of the BlueRay disk.  In particular, a boat race around the Vinciguerra estate near Rome involves a mesmerizing scene set to music where Napolean Solo finds himself sitting in a truck, eating another man’s lunch and drinking his Ruffino Chianti while trying to decide whether to save the Red Peril (Armie Hammer) from drowning.  There is also an enormously creative Nazi torture scene that succeeds in being both sickening and hilarious.  Not at the same time; in sequence.

The only drawback for me was the odd casting decision to concentrate all the talent and beauty on the male side of the cast list.  Three of the most god-like and fittest actors on the planet (Henry Cavil – literally Superman, Armie Hammer and Luca Calvani) were cast alongside Swedish actress Alicia Vickander as UNCLE teammate and Elizabeth Debicki as villainess.Man1j.jpg

The ladies do a wonderful job – too good, actually.  Though a beautiful young actress in her 20s, Debicki performs so well as an aging and glamorous mafiosa, she comes across as too repulsive to lust after.  And, though it’s clear they were trying to go for a Jean Shrimpton style of 60s cute girl chic with Vikander, she broods through the whole thing and ends up more like a little sister than a “Bond Girl.”  The result is that there is no real leading lady character in a movie that desperately needs the glamour of a strong leading lady to counterbalance the pretty boys in it.  Otherwise, though, this film will help a few glasses of Johnny Walker Black disappear very smoothly and stylishly.

About GruntOfMonteCristo

Fearless and Devout Catholic Christian First, Loving Husband and Father Second, Pissed-Off Patriot Third, Rocket Engineer Dork Last.
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8 Responses to Grunt’s Friday Night Movie Micro-Review: The Man from UNCLE(2015)

  1. fredd says:

    I might see it just to catch some more of Alicia Vikander, a babe and a half. That, and I grew up watching David McCallum and Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriakhin, along of course with Leo G. Carroll.

    Loved Alicia Vickander in “Ex Machina.”

    • I still need to see Ex Machina, but looking forward to it.

      • fredd says:

        Ex Machina is a must see, this was LL’s recommendation to me maybe a year ago, dynamite film. And the first time I saw Alicia Vikander. As Garth in Wayne’s World would say, if she were born 150 years ago, she would have been Babe-braham Lincoln.

        • Are you sure you’re not in love with the machine, Freddo? You know that wasn’t Alicia’s body, right? 😉 It WAS her face, though. 🙂

          I can see Larry liking this. He’s big into the Blade Runner genre. I’ll probably see it to see if they’ve done anything different, and I really like Oscar Isaac’s work, but I’m a little gun shy about the AI, human-machine cyborg schtick. Why? It’s technical.

          • fredd says:

            I get that. Techies (aka geeks, nerds) can never watch these flicks without howling in protest about the smallest details that are botched by the producers/writers. You guys all take your marching orders from Dr. Sheldon Cooper. I do the same watching military movies – I pick apart mistakes in the equipment, the uniform infractions, the myriad details that only current and ex-military guys would notice.

            • Guilty! Ex Machina looks like it gets the tech details down to perfection, though. My beef with the genre is on the philosophical side, and I’ve been beefing since the 30 or so android episodes of Star Trek in the 60s. No matter how complex the software, or how realistic the silicone face, it’s just a machine. It can’t ask questions, like “Do you want me to love you long time?” Or, “What happens to me if I fail a test?” That’s bullshit, and it blurs the line between living thing & machine and cheapens the value of human beings, which is unfathomable.

              I fear that our kids are going to start up “Old Robot’s Homes” and have funerals for computers and spend all their time getting their sex robots to “understand them.” That’s a reality we may see pretty soon if feminists don’t get their shit together. If guys can have a Lara Croft doll that makes breakfast, the marriage rates will plummet to 3% and there will be a huge spike in the demand for cats.

  2. woodsterman says:

    I’ll wait for it to come out on TV … Oh wait!

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