Friday, January 1, 2016

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Ritchie, 2015): Mini-Film Review

Guy Ritchie's 2015 caper isn't perfect, but the 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems pretty odd (as is the 42% given to Woody Allen's outing from the same summer). Sure, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. left my 14 yo behind when we watched the film on Blu-ray the other night, but he was tired after soccer practice, and nationally syndicated reviewers aren't 14, right?

I thought U.N.C.L.E. had to be shot on film to create its retro feel, but no.

Ritchie's films draw attention to technique without relegating story to the background. This one establishes location with innovative shots, integrates (yellow) subtitles and text (of all sizes) in an entertaining manner, and provides character and historical background details creatively. Its car chases could give the Furious franchise pause, and while many scenes would seamlessly fit in a 007 film, this one has a sense of humor to boot. It's funny but no spoof--I laughed so hard during one scene at the theater that I looked around in embarrassment to see if I was the only one laughing and fortunately I wasn't.

One of the film's backstories (of Uncle Rudi) seems to be awkwardly placed, but (as with many films) on repeat viewings you can tell why the filmmakers elected to place the info. where it is, although I think it would have been more effective if presented when the character was first introduced. And actor Alicia Vikander delivers a few lines as unconvincingly as Hayden Christensen in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones--a furrowed brow only expresses so much.

Most importantly, it's disappointing to see a fairly weak female role in a year with such strong female leads in some of the best western mainstream films: Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015), The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015), and Inside Out (Docter & Del Carmen, 2015).

But Guy Ritchie's montage+music sequences are nearly always on point (as they are in Snatch), and I'm a sucker for the split-screen style almost whenever its used because of its link to comics (I even loved it in Ang Lee's Hulk in 2003).

Split-screen montage? Check.

Finally, what's with all of the strapped-to-a-chair torture sequences in 2015? We have them in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Spectre (Mendes, 2015), and Star Wars. Extracting information from our hard drives seems to be on the forefront of filmmakers minds these days.

We're paranoid that people will figure out how to extract our hard drives.

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