Movie Review: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Starring
Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
Director
Guy Ritchie

Hollywood hasn’t been shy about its love for sequels, reboots and remakes this summer, but as far as big screen adaptations of mildly popular television shows go, you could do a lot worse than “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” In fact, though director Guy Ritchie has admitted that he wasn’t overly familiar with the 1960s TV series before signing on to the project, it’s the ideal property for a filmmaker like Ritchie to tackle, because it allows him to cherry-pick the show’s best bits and put his own spin on the material without worrying about stepping on too many toes. That approach worked well for his “Sherlock Holmes” movies, and it’s equally as effective with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” an entertaining homage to retro spy films that makes up for what it lacks in substance with plenty of laughs and undeniable style.

In 1963, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia agree to temporarily put aside their differences and combine forces when they learn that a secret criminal organization has kidnapped former Nazi scientist Udo Teller to build an atom bomb. The CIA and KGB assign their top agents – American thief-turned-spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and hard-nosed Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) – to infiltrate the organization led by the beautiful but deadly Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) in order to rescue Dr. Teller and prevent a global disaster. Assisting Napoleon and Illya on their mission is Teller’s daughter, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), a plucky mechanic whose uncle is their only lead in locating the bomb.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Lennie James (“Low Winter Sun”)

Lennie James is a familiar face to fans of cult and comic-book-inspired TV series, having been a regular in “Jericho” and guesting on “Human Target” and “The Walking Dead,” but now he’s trying his hand at an American cop drama, starring in AMC’s “Low Winter Sun.” James’s career has also featured several notable film roles as well, and he was kind enough to chat about a few of those, too, most notably reflecting on the passing of his “Snatch” co-star Dennis Farina. First, though, we dove into discussion about how he came by his current gig, the difference between how his character’s written and how he plays the part, and his fondness for AMC’s way with surprises.

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Bullz-Eye: So were you actively looking for a series gig, or did “Low Winter Sun” just kind of fall into your lap?

Lennie James: Um…I’m trying to remember how it went around! I think it was… I’d gone home to Britain to do a television series over there, and then when I got back, “Low Winter Sun” was… [Hesitates.] Oh, that’s actually what happened. I was just about to lie to you. I’ll tell you the truth now.

BE: The truth is always preferable when I can get it.

LJ: Yeah! Well, I shot a pilot that didn’t go, and the script for “Low Winter Sun” kind of came in, and…it was very conventional: I read it, I liked it, and then went and met on it, and it happened.

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