On Friday night we all went to an IMAX screening of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie by Guy Ritchie and what a fun delight it was! So many films based on 1960s shows have been modern contrivances that held no connections to the source material (Wild Wild West, I Spy, The Avengers, etc). Ritchie made a wise choice early on to set his U.N.C.L.E. story in the world of the Cold War and the early 1960s. Although some fans were bothered by the film's omission of many of the symbolic elements and rituals of the original show- as well as a personality makeover for Ilya K (no spoilers here)- the overall retro vibe of the movie was really successful and fun. Many scenes were shot with a vintage image quality and, except for one modern-style chase sequence, the action was thankfully understated (sometimes silent!) and without that bombastic barrage of jarring sound fx that is so prevalent. Thank you! The soundtrack was very groovy and did a great job bringing a jet-setting (and sometimes spaghetti western) vibe to the experience. The CD has been sold out at Amazon for over a week, so hopefully that means ancillary sales are high (hey, we want a sequel!). I don't think I've seen this kind of love-letter to 1960s cool since the Oceans series by Steven Soderbergh (he was signed to make this U.N.C.L.E. movie for a while). It was clearly a labor of joy and affection for filmmaking. Spy Vibers will love the attention to detail from the production designers who recreated 1960s East and West Berlin, Rome, and other locations of international mystery. The costumes were equally stunning and never went too over the top. With so many far out designs known from the era, it would have been easy to take things too far and approach parody. Perhaps that balance was the central theme to my enjoyment of the film- fun and restraint. Maybe my only quibble design-wise was about the references to Paco Rabanne, who I believe was still making jewelry during the period of the film and hadn't yet blasted off into his celebrated solo work from later in the decade. I had been worried by the trailer and print ads, which seemed to suggest the film was all actors standing around posing like a contrived magazine spread. I needn't have worried, and I felt in good hands with everyone's performance. Hugh Grant was great as Mr. Waverly. He is one of my favorite actors (About a Boy is one of his best), and I often felt he could have played a great spy, like Patrick McGoohan, who can be charming in his cover but observant and calculating from the corner of his eye. Alicia Vikander was quite good as Gaby, though I felt the script had some trouble defining her character in terms of her agency under pressure (was she independent and capable or in need of rescue?). I also didn't quite buy the love interest angle, again a problem with the script. Without going into details, the plot raced along well and used some familiar tropes from the old days of Cold War spy adventures. Long-time fans will spot references to Connery's era of Bond and to Michael Caine's Ipcress File. I think Spy Vibers will love it! Our group followed up on Saturday night with a triple-feature screening of 1960s U.N.C.L.E. movies at Quentin Tarantino's theater. It was especially thrilling to see them projected from film prints on the big screen! You can love digital remastering all you want, but nothing compares to the natural surface quality and color of film. The presentation, which also included correct screen framing and aspect ratios, looked absolutely fantastic. Even The Karate Killers, which was shown on a reddish 16mm print, was a blast to see. As I watched, I thought back over the new movie and how it compared to the old series. I kept seeing little moments and subtle elements in the old films that were clearly tapped by Guy Ritchie to create his new iteration. Yes, maybe there were some iconic things fans will miss in the 2015 version, but I could see the heart of the show, or at least most of it, preserved in Ritchie's vision. Even the choice to redefine the original characters didn't, in my view, derail the experience. After all the disappointment we have suffered as fans through the many disastrous  remakes that tried to cash in on the 1960s, it was a joy to finally see quality and some respect for the source up there on the screen. Go see it and tell me what you think!
Selected Spy Vibe posts: Honor Blackman at 90, UNCLE School, Ian Fleming Memorial, Radiophonic Exhibit, Portmeirion Photos, Doctor Who Exhibit, Farewell Steed, Pussy Galore Returns, Diana Rigg birthday, Sherlock at 221B, Invisible Agent, Saint Interview: Ian Dickerson, Saint Doppelgänger, Fleming's Typewriter, Rare Fleming, Fleming's Music, Ian Fleming's Japan, Jim Wilson Corgi Interview, Fantomas Design, Jeremy Duns on Bond, John Buss interview, Avengers Season 5 Titles, Saint Volvo, Mod Tales Interview, Agente Secreto Comics, Danger Man Comics 2, Danger Man Comics, John Drake Comics, Der Mann Von UNCLE, Golden Margaret Nolan, Man From UNCLE Rocksteady, Pussy Galore Calypso, Cynthia Lennon R.I.P., Edward Mann Fashion, Leonard Nimoy Tribute, Shatner at 84, Bob Morane series, Thai Bond Design, Bond vs Modernism, Art of Modesty, Tokyo Beat 1964, Feraud Mod Fashion, Green Hornet Manga, No 6 Festival, Avengers Interview: Michael Richardson, Ian Fleming: Wicked Grin, Jane Bond Hong Kong Records, Ryan Heshka Interview, Comics Week: Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E., Comics Week: Archie, Comics Week: Robots, Comics Week: Cold War Atomic, Comics Week: SPYMAN, Comics Week: Jimmy Olsen, Shakespeare Spies: Diana Rigg, Shakespeare Spies I, Rodney Marshall Avengers Interview, Richard Sala: Super-Enigmatix, Cold War Archie, Playboy Bunny Interview, The 10th Victim Japanese and Kindle, U.N.C.L.E. Japanese Books, Trina Robbins Interview, Catsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.