It’s nice to see director Brad Bird inject a new sense of excitement and novelty in to the “Mission Impossible” movie series, as it now embraces its episodic origins to completely reboot the epic story of Ethan Hunt. After the pretty good third outing, “Ghost Protocol” sports an entirely different atmosphere, where the team from the IMF are still out and lurking about, while Ethan Hunt has become a pariah, now jailed in a Russian prison. After Simon Pegg’s character Benji stages a caper to free Ethan from prison, Ethan discovers that the world must be in dire trouble if he’s being turned to for help.
When Melissa McCarthy is misused, she’s a bumbling, awkward, and unfunny mess trying way too hard (see: Tammy), but when she’s used correctly, she’s about as great as any other female comedian working in film today. McCarthy certainly is charming and has a down home quality to her that makes most roles she takes absolutely interesting. Even in such a derivative movie like “Spy,” McCarthy shines and arouses raucous laughs. And because of her, folks like Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, and Jason Statham manage to shine and earn their own raucous laughter in the process. You wouldn’t think Law or Statham could be funny, but lo and behold, they’re just top notch in another great Paul Feig film about a unique female conquering some form of personal limitation.
It’s a damn shame that Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” will be widely disregarded as dismissed as one of the many failed attempts to build a cinematic adventure out of a beloved TV show. Though I’ve never seen the original series, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was such a stylish and brutally entertaining adaptation that always kept me smiling with its engaging characters and dazzling action. The trio of Alicia Vikander, Henry Cavil, and Armie Hammer are magnetic and explosive as a mismatched mod squad of spies and agents, all of whom from vastly different backgrounds. To work toward ending the potential threat of nuclear war, they have to find common ground with one another.
This leads to a really raucous action thriller, where literally everyone is on their game, and have to work towards learning to work with each other, despite their inherent mistrust and xenophobia. Ritchie is usually a very sharp and fantastic director, and he brings a lot of visual flourishes and brisk pacing to “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” often preventing it from feeling like a creaky and old spy film. Ritchie could very well have turned this big screen treatment in to another clone of “Mission Impossible,” but instead opts for a more vintage character based action film. Every character are quick with the one-liners, run around dressed in sharp suits and tuxedos, and still manage to look suave even when getting their hands dirty.
Henry Cavil and Armie Hammer work wonders as the unlikely duo of competing agents from vastly different backgrounds. Forced to work together, they convey a very unique dynamic that’s fun to see unfold. Cavil, despite being the American CIA agent is very suave and charismatic, while Hammer does a wonderful job as Illya Kuryakin, the rough and tumble KGB operative adds a bit more substance with his tortured past. Though the buddy cop aesthetic is old hat, Cavil and Hammer keep the film afloat, along with the great supporting turn by Alicia Vikander who as the enigmatic Gaby Teller.
Though the film is more polished than previous Ritchie cinematic offerings, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” still garners a lot of Ritchie’s erratic energy and brisk pacing, which compliments the international intrigue action and mystery. Ritchie’s version of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” may not be no holds barred masterpiece like “The Fugitive” but it is a fun, light, and stylish spy thriller with top notch performances from the entire cast. It surely warrants an audience that appreciates the flavor it brings to the sub-genre of television adaptations.
Featured on the Blu-Ray/DVD release is “Spy Vision” an eight minute look at how director Ritchie and producer Wigram discuss their inspirations for the aesthetic of the film including costumes, and what not. There’s also talk about props, location, and the various vehicles. “A Higher Class of Hero” is a seven minute look at the challenge of creating the action sequences and trying to make them seem original and unique.
“Métisse Motorcycles: Proper—and Very British” is a five minute visit with Gerry Lisi, who helped make the Metisse motorcycles featured in the film. “The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.” is a five minute rundown of the careers of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. “A Man of Extraordinary Talents” is a three minute look at the work of Guy Ritchie. Finally, there’s “U.N.C.L.E.: On-Set Spy,” a five minute series of short segments that look at various nuances of the production. There are segments like “You Want to Wrestle?” and “Don’t Swim Elegantly.” You can choose to view all, or separately.
The worst crime that “Shadow Recruit” is guilty of is that it’s mediocre. At no point was I worried for the characters because, I just didn’t care. We know Ryan fights another day, so why fear for his life? The studios can’t quite seem to decide if they want to turn Jack Ryan in to Jason Bourne, or just a geek chic techie, so in “Shadow Recruit” he’s both. One minute he’s zooming through New York in a motorcycle trying to chase down a fake police car intent on blowing up Wall Street, and the next he can barely finish a covert operation without the help of Kevin Costner’s guardian Thomas watching and re-assuring him from afar. At this point, it’s about time to really give up on the Jack Ryan character.
I wouldn’t say that “The Bourne Legacy” is a bad movie. As a sequel, or spin off, it works as an interesting diversion, and has a unique concept. Treadstone perhaps wasn’t the only test subject, and now we’re faced with the potential of others out there fighting for their lives when the government decides to burn the entire house down and murder their subjects. Jeremy Renner has proven to be a charismatic action hero, and “The Bourne Legacy” is altogether a fine movie, in the end. And that’s the problem. It’s just fine. The first three “Bourne” movies were incredible.
“The Comic Bucket List” is a limited column where we review 25 comic books and graphic novels we’ve been meaning to read for years. We discover if they were worth waiting for, or if they never quite lived up to the hype they promised.
DANGER GIRL (FIRST RUN)
J. Scott Campbell, Andy Hartnell
In spite of the heavy criticism it received, I really enjoyed “The Rise of Cobra” as a silly action movie fantasy that tried to have fun with its source material. The twenty six year old me in 2009 really enjoyed the goofy fun that was the first film, but the ten year old me loved every single moment of the cinematic adaptation of the famed toy line. “Retaliation” is still a very flawed film (stop letting RZA act in movies!), but it’s superior to the first installment in every way.
I am of the opinion that it would have been an excellent idea to pass the “Die Hard” franchise over from John McClane to his daughter Lucy. That would not only have been a fantastic move for an iconic franchise but breathed fresh air in to a stale movie series. Mary Elizabeth Winstead could have proven herself as an action heroine, the series could have revived the idea that females can lead action movies, and we could have visited a brand new character from the McClane legacy who could have brought a bold new angle to the “Die Hard” series. Sadly, casting females in action movies is still considered bold and new. The producers missed out on a golden opportunity to really change the genre as a whole. Instead we’re given this.