The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Let me stipulate right up front that I loved this movie.  I want to see it again and that’s really rare for me.  I went in torn between hope and trepidation.  This was either going to be very good or a total train wreck.  On the one hand you had Guy Ritchie directing.  On the other it was based on the Man From U.N.C.L.E  I loved the show as a little kid.  I was madly in love with Illya Kuryakin.  I even got to go on the set because of my father’s business partners in Los Angeles who had connections to the movie business.  It was the first time I was ever on a set and David McCallum was even more handsome in person then on film.

Years later they started showing the TV show on Nick at Night.  I was so excited.  I settled down to watch this beloved childhood series.  And I was shocked.  Somewhere in the intervening years they had reshot all the episodes and made them shitty.  I stopped watching and resolved to just keep my gauzy memories.

So now there’s a movie and I headed out last night filled with hope and fear.  I say again — I loved it.  The two leads are handsome and charming.  Suggestive lines are uttered by Napoleon Solo, but unlike the ghastly Roger Moore Bond movies they weren’t stupid suggestive ranging into creepy suggestive.  Illya is one deeply psychologically messed up guy which I loved.  The female character, Gaby, is strong and capable and keeps you guessing.  She’s also not Hollywood pretty.  Instead she is interesting.

It was set in 1963 and Ritchie sent a love letter to that era.  It made me think of the glamour of the early Bond movies, or the film GRAND PRIX (a movie about formula 1 car racing that I adore).  There were exotic Italian locals, and race cars, the amazing fashions of Carnaby Street.  It’s action packed and also very funny.

It has Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly who is going to lead this new team.  And boy are they a bunch of misfits.  Ritchie made an interesting casting choice.  David McCallum is not a big man.  Illya was slight, more like a whippet than a tank though he was the action guy while Napoleon was Mr. Suave.  In this Illya is a bruiser.  Bigger then Solo with real anger management issues.  He’s a handsome blond Hulk.  At first it threw me, but I ended up really liking the change.

It’s interesting that a Brit actor is playing the American Solo and an American is playing the Russian.  The rest of the cast is very cosmopolitan, and they all work with that light, tongue-in-cheek quality that was a hallmark of the TV show.

I’m not going to talk about the plot.  It’s very sixties spy set up.  The plot isn’t the point.  It’s all about the interactions between the characters which was just perfect.  I really, really hope this becomes a viable franchise and we see more of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

8 Responses to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

  • I think I’m going ot have to try to see this one. I may use the money I had set aside for “the Fantastic Four” for this, instead. I only dimly remember the show, but I remember liking it a lot.

    I’d like to see this take off, too, for the actors’ sakes. I like Henry Cavill a lot, and would like to see both of the franchises he’s a part of right now succeed. I don’t think I’ve seen anything with Hammer, unless we count one episode of “Veronica Mars” that I don’t really remember, but he certainly seemed to be on track in the trailers.

    Maybe Thursday….

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Judging from the reviews you’d be better off seeing this and not Fantastic 4. I’m going to skip that one. Len Wein hated it and he’s my comic guru.

      • I normally refuse to listen to professional critics, but this one… too many people are squawking too loudly, some of them *not* critics, so I’ll wait for video, or Netflix, or… something.

        The trick becomes finding a “dead time” showing of “the Man from U.N.C.L.E.” so that I can handle going. (I’m very not good with crowds, any more. Yay.)

        Oh. Forgot, last time, but I had a very similar experience to yours with the show “the Man from U.N.C.L.E.” with “Space: 1999.” I remember it being awesome science fiction, but, years later, someone gave me the complete DVD collection… and it’s just awful, as an adult.

        Funny how memory and inexperience mess with our heads.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I thought it was charming with a deft, light touch. Yes the action isn’t insane like so many modern movies. You know it was something a normal human could survive. I confess I’ve gotten very sick of action that would leave a person with shattered bones and a brain reduced to mush. I walked out of King Kong for that reason. And the latest Die Hard movies…. please. That was what was so great about the first Die Hard. He was being beat to pieces by what he had to do. it made you cheer for him all the more.

  • Steve Halter says:

    I thought this was great fun and really hope there is a sequel. Showing how this group comes together (with tension even at the end) was very well done. Mutual rescues of a number of varieties.

    I saw the Fantastic Four and taking a pass is a good choice.

  • Melinda Sherb says:

    I, too, loved the tv series when it was originally broadcast. My friends and I formed a local fan club with our own take on it, assuming the personas of Josephine Duet, Illyana Kay, Delia Flor, and Ms. Straighterly. And then we wrote our own stories, and critiqued each others’ — you know, as teen-age girls are wont to do.

    You are so right – somehow, years later, the episodes were no longer exciting and daring, or even watchable, whereas the movie took the essence of the TV show, added character backstories and genuinely exotic locations, and made them fun again.

    Thanks for voicing your let-down of seeing the TV show in later times. I thought I was the only one to be disappointed. Yes, it was a fun movie. Maybe it won’t feel as dated in 10 years.

  • J. J. Markin says:

    So glad I’m not the only one who loved the film. And the TV show (I have the complete DVD set) isn’t altogether “shitty” by today’s standards — or, at least, I found myself readily reverting back to my teenage self and seeing the episodes much as I saw them back then. (Save that I found the sexism, and especially Solo’s “suave” behaviour, which bothered me even back then, in less enlightened times, almost unbearable. Today, he’d be edging close to an outright charge of sexual harassment.) The film is grittier, but catches the spirit of the series perfectly. The humour is exactly the same; Hugh Grant got Waverly’s expressions and body language just about pitch perfect; and Gaby — well, I actually kept thinking: “That’s April Dancer!” The groundwork is certainly laid for the relationship of the characters in the chronologically later tv series — the same sort of slight edginess and one-upmanship. And I liked the way the film kept tossing in the little flashbacks to show what was going on that we didn’t see or hear in an earlier scene.

    Like you, I hope for sequels.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I’m afraid we aren’t going to get sequels because the film isn’t doing well. I’d like to see it again before it vanishes from screens. This is one I will probably buy for my library.

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