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Film Review: The Man from U. N. C. L. E.

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Film Review: The Man from U. N. C. L. E.
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  1 The Man from U. N. C. L. E. Review by Ally Adnan The real stars of Guy Ritchie’s remarkably stylish, but sadly shallow, The Man from U. N. C. L. E. , without a doubt, are composer Daniel Pemberton and costume designer Joanna Johnston. A highly entertaining celebration of the cold war era  –  with all its glamor, fashion, style, intrigue, espionage, gadgetry, mystique, music and much else  –  the film is a veritable feast both for the eyes and for the ears. Daniel Pemberton ’s  retro score uses modern recording techniques to create music that is simultaneously dramatic, jazzy and charming. He employs the harpsichord, chimalong, drums, organ, guitar and bass flute to create an srcinal score that never falls to the background, competing with  –  and occasionally outshining  –  the beautiful actors on screen. The bold and striking song, The Drums of War  , uses  2 twenty-four percussion instruments, each tuned to a different pitch, to create a mysterious and thundering sound hitherto unheard in cinema. Pemberton’s employment of bongos, castanets, congas, hochets, rototoms, shakers, timbales, and a plethora of other instruments to create a single coherent song is masterful. Joanna Johnston ’s on-point costume design, like Pemberton’s score, does not take a backseat to the action on screen either; indeed it is an essential element in the film’s perfectly tailored and soign é look. Johnston creates four individual and distinct styles, one each for the film’s four  primary characters, and uses colors, lines, silhouettes and structures to highlight, if not define, the characters. The film’s finest performance  –  that of Elizabeth Debicki as the villainous Italian aristocrat, Victoria Vinciguerra  –  would not have worked without Johnston’s magic sartorial touch, and the others would not have been as much fun. Guy Ritchie’s big screen version of the sixties television series of the same name, retains the main characters of the series and keeps the story in its srcinal time period. American agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Russian agent Illya  3 Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to work together as a team to save the world from nuclear destruction. Their mission requires them to locate a former Nazi scientist who is being forced to build a nuclear device by the evil Victoria Vinciguerra. They plan to do so with the help of the scientist’s estranged daughter,   Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), who works as a car mechanic in Berlin. The spy duo needs to wade its way through a few double-crosses and a lot of action before they can stop Vinciguerra from selling an atom bomb. Ritchie’s visually delectable but intellectually vacuous film has three brilliant scenes. The first takes place in an outdoor café where the two agents are briefed about the details of their secret mission in a decidedly public setting. The fact that their conversation can be heard by everyone in the café creates the setting for a truly funny visual gag. The second scene takes place in an upscale boutique where Solo and Kuryakin have a seriously silly discussion about wearing a Paco Rabanne belt with a Christian Dior dress. The third scene involves Teller springing into a  4 spontaneous dance for Kuryakin that ends in the two wrestling each other on the floor. Intensely erotic, the scene has both the actors fully clothed. Such brilliant scenes, alas, are few and far between in Ritchie’s film that seems content with showing exceedingly beautiful actors, wearing extraordinarily glamourous clothes, in magnificently exotic locations, and with crafting some particularly stylish action sequences, replete with vintage cars, scooters, boats and helicopters and set to wonderful music. That makes for a film that is entertaining but lacks substance, one that does not take itself too seriously. Audiences are likely to enjoy it more if they don’t take it too seriously either.   Ally Adnan lives in Dallas and writes about culture, history and the arts. He tweets @allyadnan and can be reached at allyadnan@outlook.com . 
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