The Man From UNCLE DVD Review

DVD Review by Jon E Clist

The Premise
In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

The Review
Before we get down to talking about what we thought about this remake, let’s get some business out of the way. Here’s a little background that you might need to know about the whole affair.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. started off as an American television series broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1964, to January 15, 1968. It follows secret agents, played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who work for a secret international counter espionage and law-enforcement agency called U.N.C.L.E. Originally, co-creator Sam Rolfe wanted to leave the meaning of U.N.C.L.E. ambiguous so it could refer to either "Uncle Sam" or the United Nations. Concerns by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer legal department about using "U.N." for commercial purposes resulted in the producers' clarification that U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Each episode had an "acknowledgement" to the U.N.C.L.E. on the end titles. The arch nemesis of U.N.C.L.E. is T.H.R.U.S.H., the acronym for Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. spin-off series ran for one season, starred Stefanie Powers as agent "April Dancer", a character name credited to Ian Fleming, and Noel Harrison as agent Mark Slate. There were also eight featured films, however not all of them were released in the US.

Now even though all of this happened long before I was born, I certainly still remember seeing re-runs and based on the general love of spy-centered films this was always going to be a franchise that would return at some stage. It is a concept that oozes coolness and overflows with debonair styles, so there was always going to be a big question as to who makes films with that devil-may-care attitude that could pull off such a task. Then Guy Ritchie strolls in and we know from his previous outings that he has cinematic swagger and could be one of the few directors with the ability to pull off such a lofty assignment. That being said it is important to judge this film against the feel of the previous UNCLE outings rather than Ritchie’s previous outings. It would be easy to fall into the expectation that this film would carry the usual gritty nature that we saw in Snatch, Lock Stock and RocknRolla, however Ritchie has resisted this temptation and kept the similar feel of the UNCLE that we have always known. It has moments of teasing, but still stays pretty sanitized overall and hence making it a little more accessible to a wider audience.

We still see the typical editing tools that we have grown to love from a Ritchie film and when it comes down to the big finale invasion/fight scene, he skips along the start of it for pace utilizing his typical split scene, which gives you a chance to see what is happening without having to spend half of a movie living and reliving it. A very wise and clever move. Through things like this you get a really nice pacing to the film that keeps you interested and still gives you moments to just sit within and soak it in.

While Hammer and Cavill do a splendid job of bringing they core male roles to life, it is Vikander who completely and utterly steals the show. It would be easy to have such a central female role in a film such as this be just the love interest, or perhaps the eye candy, and yet Vikander takes on more of a central role not only in the plot but also in the action. It is obvious that through the building of her profile in her previous roles, through to the out and out success here, that she is definitely on her way to mega stardom and we can expect big things yet to come.

The Verdict
Very cool and debonair, yet rather safe and clean. All the attitude of the sixties with a touch of family friendly television from that era too, yet a whole lot of fun!

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 16th December 2015
Rating: M
Duration: 116 minutes 
Genre:  Action
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and two smoking barrels, Snatch)

The Extras
Tom Cruise was cast as Napoleon Solo but chose to focus instead on Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) so he dropped out. Henry Cavill, who was at first considered for the other role, was cast.

The film has a lot of stunts, and both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer took part in them. Hammer was a little more involved in his stunts, and his stunt double "hardly has a chance to do anything because he's out there doing it all by himself".

Warner Bros. had been trying to make The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) for over a decade and it was one of those projects that couldn't get the green light.

Illya Kuryakin is seen using a modified Walther p38 pistol with extensions and scope. This is an homage to the same Walther p38 used in the original 1964 t.v series. This design was the same design used by the Japanese in the early 80's to create their 'Microman' toy that would transform from a pistol to a robot. This toy design was later bought by Hasbro toy company in America and the toy was re-packaged and sold as the original G1 Transformer Megatron and introduced in The Transformers (1984).

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played the lead roles in the original TV series.

Armie Hammer did eventually watch the show before starting production, but Henry Cavill did not.

The movie takes place a year or two after the Cuban missile crisis. It's an origin story that the TV show never explained. Doing the origin story is one of the reasons Ritchie and Wigram wanted to do the project.

One of the reasons the film stayed in the 60s time period is it allows them "to have our own world, our own reality, our own tone, which sets us apart" from films like Bourne and other recent spy thrillers.