THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

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The Cia and the KGB work together during the Cold War to defeat a criminal organization bringing together the talents of spies Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer).

Somebody once said if you haven’t got anything nice to say then say nothing at all. If I stuck to that adage then this would be a very short review. I shall begin, however by saying something good about the film, Hugh Grant; he was, by far, the best thing in this shameful exercise in banality and had everything Cavill and Hammer should have had; charm, charisma, humour, timing, confidence. He has been at it for a while now and clearly knows his craft and it shows.

This is a pale imitation of the series. All the pieces are present, all is lacking is a soul, like Pinocchio without his life, a wooden boy. Or two wooden boys playing at being spies. Giving everyone good reason why not to re-make or re-boot old material. Did Hammer not learn his lesson from The Lone Ranger? Apparently not.

If you want to watch 116 minutes of a fashion advert then ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ is for you.
If you want to watch 116 minutes of a film that spared every expense on charm or charisma then ‘TMFU’ is for you.
If you’re one of those consumers who stop by a DVD vending machine outside a supermarket seriously considering renting one of the movies on offer then ‘TMFU’ is definitely for you.

The success of the original show, which was a LOT more fun than this film, was that it was capitalizing on the success and formula that made James Bond so exciting, and doing it with a lot smaller budget. The casting of Robert Vaughan and David McCallum was a big part of the show’s success. Both of them managing to effortlessly capture the charisma and mystery of their characters. They were both in their early 30’s but came from a different time when men were men and they didn’t have to look like Ken off of Ken and Barbie to be leading men.
Cavill and Hammer fall into the Ken category of actors.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was first broadcast in 1964 and at the time was the only U.S. spy thriller on American tv, 2 years later there were many imitators. Ian Fleming was originally involved in early development, the leftovers from this were the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.). The original title was ‘Ian Fleming’s Solo’, The name had to be changed when Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the Bond producers, demanded the removal of Fleming’s name from the title.

Guy Ritchie has gone from bad to worse with his oeuvre, starting off as a potential British Tarantino and ending up as a parody. This feels like he was a director for hire, so it’s surprising to see that he co-wrote the film with Lionel Wigram. The script is ok, the budget is fairly decent however the action sequences are uninteresting and if the audience is not involved in the character’s journeys because the actors are not engaging enough then all that follows will be a waste of time.

It angered me for the rest of the day but it is my own fault and any vitriol is really aimed at myself for being stupid enough to pay my monies. It was the only film on at the time I was free on that day. My other choices were Trainwreck and Ant-Man which were not on at that time so, foolishly I thought I might get myself entertained by a yarn of sorts and all I got was a yawn of epic proportions.
Terrible.

1/5

BUY THE BLU RAY DVD HERE

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TANGERINES-‘Mandariinid’ (2013)

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Set in Georgia in 1990 during the war, this quiet, powerful film tells the story of Iwo (Lembit Ulfsak), an Estonian man who has stayed behind in the region to harvest his crop of tangerines, and his neighbor, Juhan (Raivo Trass), also a tangerine farmer. The Georgian civil war has forced the rest of the locals to flee back to Estonia for safety in this tumultuous time.

After a bloody battle ensues nearby, Iwo takes in a Chechen soldier, Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze), a Muslim, and a Georgian soldier, Niko (Misha Meskhi), a Christian, who were both injured in the battle. These two sworn enemies promise not to kill each other as long as they are in Iwo’s house. Their performances are rooted in a palpable history.

This anti-war film leans towards the things that connect us as opposed to the those that separate us. What it has to say about current conditions between various religious factions all over the world is incredibly pertinent. Sit two humans next to each other and have them discover their commonalities and before long a bond can be formed.

Zara Urushadze directs this film with a quiet intimacy and humanity that is rarely seen in a war film. This is not strictly a war movie, merely a story set during a violent time in Georgia’s recent history. The quietness is its greatest strength, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars (2015) and losing out to Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘Ida’, it is well deserving of acclaim and worth seeking out.

The acting is brilliant, quiet and grounded; the cinematography by Rein Kotov is beautiful, capturing the village and the surrounding mountainous areas with simplicity and is more powerful because of it. The music is both haunting and filled with memories composed by Niaz Diasamidze. The motif theme for the film is below:

 

This is a film that many will not see and more’s the shame; it’s Georgian, subtitled, has very little in the way of action but is more powerful and important than a hundred studio movies put together; it is a deep, moving, anti-war film underpins the drama with the unsettling threat of battle always round the corner.

I want to see more of these; well-made, intelligent films that tackle serious subjects with subtlety and sensitivity.

4/5