The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Viewed – 08 December 2015  Online rental

It’s not often a movie wows and disappoints in almost equal measure.  However this 60s set spy adaptation of the popular TV series of yesteryear did just that.  Director Guy Ritchie’s take on the spy genre is rich in an authentic 60s look and feel complete with impeccable editing, cinematography and imagery straight out of a cigarette commercial or a Jean-Luc Godard classic.  From the costumes, the cars, the gadgets and even the choices of music, the look of this movie is fantastic.  Almost any shot in this could be framed and hung on the wall of a high brow art critic’s home.

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However at it’s core is a fairly typical spy yarn that feels fairly dated and straight out of the setting the movie so richly explores … fitting, but a bit lacking ideas we haven’t seen in a ton of Bond movies or said TV show.  The bad guys are also rather bland, sadly.  Yet Ritchie picks from all his tried and tested directing skills: snappy, clever split-screen moments, some fun action sequences (bar a fairly annoying dune buggy chase) and plenty of well observed humour.  Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill steals the show as the swarve and brilliantly named Napoleon Solo; a CIA agent who is forced to team up with a KGB agent (Social Network’s equally likeable Armie Hammer).  Their pairing makes for much of the entertainment as the agents squabble, try and out wit one another and help a gorgeous French girl track down her bomb-making father who is working for a couple of terrorists.

Man-from-Uncle-Movie-Yet with such fun odd-couple banter and movie making flashiness comes a story that twists and double deals and confuses throughout (not helped by a ton of subtitles that again, are presented in a very stylish manner) … leaving this viewer often not entirely sure what was going on.  It all gets a lot clearer in the final moments but by then my head was spinning.  Seriously, this movie’s style actually distracted me from the plot, the characters and well, everything.  Call it style over substance if you like, but this stumbled when it really should have flown.  Sort of like a very attractive woman who blinds you from the fact she just lifted your wallet.  I admired it on a purely artistic scale, and was well cast mostly, but that doesn’t mean it completely won me over.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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Breaking bad-habits


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I’ve waited until now to post about what has arguably become one of the most talked about and celebrated TV shows in history.  Yes Vince Gilligan’s award winning Breaking Bad.  Last night I finished watching the final season, and came away so shaken, impressed and wowed at the shows excellence that I really felt I had been witness to a major landmark in television entertainment.

I will try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible as I think this is a show that really needs to be enjoyed to the max, without knowing what lies ahead, and is another reason I have waited this long to talk about it.  Brian Cranston, previously best known as the dad in Malcolm In The Middle, plays a chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer.  Fearing for his family’s financial future, including a disabled son and a pregnant wife, he plots a scheme to get involved in the crystal-meth cooking business with a helping hand from former student Jessie (Aaron Paul).  For me I considered this a strange concept for a show and not one I could have foreseen being so popular – I mean really, the main character is a drug dealer (of sorts).  Yet in the hands of Brain Cranston he makes a morally dubious and sometimes downright awful person likable … and you are there every step of the way as he faces up against rival drug barons, his own brother-in-law DEA agent (the wonderful Dean Norris) as well as his own family woes.

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First and foremost despite an unusual premise, what holds this all together are a wealth of first class performances, especially from Cranston and Paul who excel in their roles and believe me go through the full gamut of emotions and obstacles throughout the  series … these guys really earn their pay cheques.  Cranston especially breaking out of his sitcom routes to become one of the most iconic and memorable characters, nicknamed Heisenberg and with a bald head and goatee that will truly go down in history.  I really can’t praise this show enough.  Gilligan’s direction (and the various other names who step in, including Cranston himself) all deliver a show full of style, quirks, often clever camera work, great music choices and plenty of tension – with a fair bit of comic-relief too.  This is a black comedy at times, but also hard-hitting, violent and disturbing – in a good way that hits home and lingers in one’s mind.  The kind of show you just have to talk about afterwards.

Another feather to its cap are some of the supporting characters, the lovable but deadly hit man Mike (everyone’s favourite eighties villain Jonathan Banks – Beverly Hills Cop anyone?) and most notably Giancalo Esposito’s Gustavo Fring – who really stamps his evil presence from the show’s 3rd season onwards.

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My American readers may have already seen this show and moved on, some may wonder what all the fuss is about – as did I … but after reading many (often celebrity) recommendations, I got curious and thanks to Netflix have been able to enjoy this show in it’s entirety.  It hasn’t been treated the best by British TV networks, being a complete no show on terrestrial television or even satellite service Sky – something that totally baffles me to this day … maybe that will change some time soon, even now the show is done … because it really deserves the widest audience possible. 

TV programmes come along like this very rarely … so don’t let it slip you by.