Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

Running time: 116 minutes

Director: Guy Ritchie

UNCLEbar640Based on the 1960s TV show of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is a reboot/origin story that shows how a CIA agent and a KGB operative have to team up for the first time in the middle of the Cold War to stop a criminal organization from creating and selling nuclear weapons. So, two very different agents, that don’t get along have to learn to work together to save the world. The plot has a very been there, done that feel, but this movie is not as much about the plot as it is about the style and the brilliant chemistry between the two leads.

In 1963, West Berlin, ex-criminal, now CIA agent, Napoleon Solo is sent to help Gaby Teller, the daughter of a mechanic who is working for a Nazi organization, to cross the Berlin Wall. In this role, Henry Cavill proves that he is much more than just Superman. This is the most charismatic he has ever been. Solo’s suave, sophisticated and confident personality also prove that he could have made a wonderful Bond. And let’s be honest, no one rocks the 60s suits like he does.

man-from-uncle-still2However, he is not the only one interested in Gaby. When they are trying to cross the Wall, they realize that Illya Kuryakin, a russian spy, has been following them and is trying to stop them. Armie Hammer, with a pretty good russian accent by the way, stars again in an adaptation of a classic TV show. It didn’t work very well last time with The Lone Ranger but luckily this time, instead of Johnny Depp, he counts with Cavill as his partner and, as I said at the beginning, their amazing chemistry is what really drives this movie.

In the role of Gaby, and after her spectacular portrayal of Ava in Ex-Machina, is Alicia Vikander, who fits perfectly in the group. She brings out different shades of their personalities and serves as the glue that keeps them together without the need of forcing a love triangle to make it work, as it usually happens.

Henry-Cavill-Armie-Hammer-Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Man-From-UNCLE-2015-movieSo the three of them team up and, under-cover, fly to Rome to investigate the leader of this organization, Victoria Vinciguerra. Played by Elizabeth Debicki, Victoria’s motivations are never really clear. It just seems like her whole reason to build a nuclear weapon is simply that she can. Maybe that is all the motivation she needs but I would have liked to see a bit more development there, as well as more from Hugh Grant’s character who was barely in it but added such a nice gravitas to the film every time he was on-screen.

In this day and age where action movies tend to have a convoluted plot, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a refreshing simplistic, yet charming portrayal of the old buddy cop formula that exudes style. I am not going to lie, it is not a perfect movie. It can be too campy at times but it is so much fun to watch. It is silly, witty and it doesn’t take itself too seriously but Guy Ritchie’s slick style fits perfectly with the story and the era of the 60s. This year that we have already had Kingsman: The Secret Service, Spy, Mission: Impossible and Spectre is coming up soon, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will most likely be swallowed up by the genre but it is still a worth watching movie that I just loved and now that the origin story is out of the way, could have a lot of potential for a sequel.

8/10

Movie Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Running time: 108 minutes

Director: Alex Garland

ex-machinaEx Machina is the directional debut of Alex Garland, better known for his work as a writer in 28 Days Later and Dredd and in a time where most sci-fi movies seem to follow the statement ” the bigger, the better”, Ex Machina is a pure sci-fi thriller that combines elements of romance and horror, while being surprisingly stylish and where the great acting involved makes it even more appealing. I am coming a bit late to the party but it is sad that not many people have heard about this movie because it is probably one of the best movies of the year so far.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer working in one of the largest internet companies in the world, wins a competition to spend a week in the remote house of the company’s owner, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). When he arrives there, he discovers he is to take part in Nathan’s last project by evaluating the human qualities of the world’s first artificial intelligence, housed in a beautiful female body called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Ex-Machina-01-GQ-22Jan15_rex_b_1083x658Right from the very first moment we meet Nathan, it is clear there is something off about him. From the beautiful but claustrophobic setting of his house, that fits with the enigmatic personality of this reclusive genius, to a lot of his character traits, like getting wasted every night and then purging himself on the morning. Oscar Isaac’s performance is both fascinating and suspicious. In his interactions with Caleb, who is completely the opposite of him, you are never sure who is testing who in each scene.

Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is the empathetic character of the movie that serves us as a guide through the story as he tests Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. I didn’t like her that much in the Seventh Son earlier this year, but she is absolutely fantastic here. She gives a subtle performance that is on the brink of human and robotic, with the help of the excellent visual effects that create her body but it is her air of vulnerability that makes it impossible not to sympathize with her..

Ex-Machina-Download-WallpapersEx Machina doesn’t need to rely on big special effects or crazy action sequences to keep the audience engaged. Just the intrigue, the sharp dialogue and the brilliant execution is enough to build up the tension in this thought-provoking movie where the story constantly goes to unpredictable directions. It keeps changing and surprising you. I never saw any twist coming but everything makes completely sense at the end. Dealing with the intellectual exploration of AI, Ex Machina succeeds at every level other films tackling the same ideas, like Transcendence and Chappie, have failed. This is a gem of a movie.

9’5/10

Movie Review: Seventh Son (2015)

Running time: 120 minutes

Director: Serguéi Bodrov

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Shot in 2012, Seventh Son (based on the novel The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney) was initially scheduled to debut on February 2013. It was pushed back to October, then to January 2014 and finally to February 2015 due to the problems that the parting of Legendary and Warner Bros created. Though once you have seen the film, the problems don’t stop there. I am a huge fan of fantasy films, I loved Ben Barnes in The Chronicles of Narnia, so I really wanted to like this movie. It seems you can’t always get what you want.

After the witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) breaks free from the prison she was put in years ago, Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) has a few days to train his new apprentice,Tom (Ben Barnes), as the Blood Moon quickly approaches, an event that will restore Malkin and her kin their full strength. Tom, though, may not be on the same side as Gregory in his methods and beliefs regarding the creatures of the night and this loyalty will be put to a test when he falls in love with the mysterious Alice (Alicia Vikander).

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You would think that being one of the big stars from Game of Thrones would have some kind of guarantee to land main roles, but Kit Harington has merely ten minutes of screen time as the Spook’s apprentice, Billy, before being quickly replaced by Ben Barnes, who plays Tom Ward. Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and for some reason, that makes him special though we never truly see any manifestation of that power besides having some visions. His character development basically consists on meeting over and over again with Alice, played by Alicia Vikander, and their star-crossed romance.

Jeff Bridges, the witch-hunting Spook might be the most interesting thing about this movie. In a story that is quite predictable and doesn’t seem to go anywhere, at least he is fun to watch. In the role of his old-flame and the main villain Malkin, this year’s Academy Award nominee (and possibly winner), Julianne Moore can’t do much with what she is given and her performance is just awful.

Julianne Moore in a still from Seventh SonIn the end, Seventh Son is a watchable film but forgettable. The action is fine and the production design stunning but the story is too simple and there is not much character development for anyone. The end leaves open the possibility of a sequel but I highly doubt it will happen.

4,5/10