Year Released: 2015
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
(PG-13, 116 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Mystery and Suspense, Comedy
“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” Oscar Wilde
Take a trip back to the 60s in this stylish reboot of the popular television series. It’s a soufflé of witty banter, sly humor, and high-end action that recalls the fun-loving panache of Bond films.
That is until Bond was deconstructed into a pinch-faced anti-hero by director Sam Mendes, who did to our British icon just what he attempted to do to American suburbia. Heroism just like the manicured lawns and rose gardens of American Beauty became just another illusion encasing a rot behind the facade.
The fun seems to have gone out of that franchise, which is taking itself way too seriously lately, and several films trying to fill that void have cropped up recently.
Fast and Furious 7 has been termed “The Best Bond Film in 20 Years:”
…it is everything James Bond films used to be: insanely action-packed, exotic locales, colorful cinematography, and a never ending supply of beautiful feminine eye candy. –John Nolte
The Kingsman: The Secret Service is a self-conscious spoof of 007; however, some of the violence reeks of an adolescent recklessness and a sick kind of voyeurism. Bond was stylish and sophisticated, while this pretender is both vulgar and heavy-handed.
The latest Mission Impossible captures the kick-ass action, some of the humor, and that risk-taking, follow-your-gut improvisation we loved so much in Bond.
Kudos to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for taking up this torch and running with it.
Fans of the White Collar cable TV series will be happy, because Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo, in both his back story and his looks, is almost a ringer for Matt Bomer’s Neal Caffrey, a con artist, forger and thief who enters an uneasy alliance with the FBI to get out of prison. In Solo’s case, it’s the CIA instead of the FBI, and the uneasy alliance turns out to be with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). They have to save the world from a nuclear weapon in the wrong hands. Too bad we don’t have them working for us in consort instead of the P5 + 1 powers giving away the store to the Iranians, but I digress.
In the tradition of ultimate friends Robin Hood and Little John, King Arthur and Lancelot, the two start out battling each other. And it’s a humdinger. Solo’s perfect plan to extract Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), an East Berlin little grease monkey hiding her Audrey Hepburn beauty in overalls, goes quickly awry when Kuryakin enters the scene. The chase scene through the dark and narrow Berlin streets has an element or irony because of the diminutive tin cans they call cars over there. They squeal around corners in parallel procession making up what they lack in substance with an abundance of style, which, by the way, is what a lot of critics have said about the film itself.
Just when Solo is sure he has lost or terminated his tail, Kuryakin comes back at him, like some energizer bunny that won’t quit. When he finally has the KGB agent in his sites close up, Solo refuses to pull the trigger, a decision he probably regrets when he finds the Russian his force-fed colleague a short time later.
The East Berlin grease monkey is part of the action, too, since it is her nuclear scientist father they fear is involved in suspected atomic bomb plans. She will go to Rome to reunite with him and bring Illya along as her supposed fiancé. But they have to clean her up a bit first.
The proper Solo decks her out quite respectably as a subdued sort of Audrey Hepburn, but Illya, who claims ownership as the fiancé, decides more on a Julia Christie panache. The scene where the 2 spies have a verbal dual over fashion choices, arguing over which purses or belts fit the ensemble is part of the witty banter that sets this apart from other Bond wannabes.
Other humorous touches are more visual in nature, such as the scene of Solo feasting on wine and fruit while Kuryakin seems to be having less fun in a speedboat with several gunboats in pursuit. Then there is the scene where the two spies argue about what fate to give a captive torturer while we see it played out in full living color through the glass panels right behind them.
Hugh Grant lends his deft touch as Alexander Waverly, the MI5 operative played on television by the late Leo G. Carroll, his British diffidence and wry wit the perfect mask for the steel underneath.
Enjoy all the fun, the quips, the great 60s high fashion and sound track, but especially that lighter than air feel. And be sure to stay for the credits where you can glimpse the dossiers of all 3 leads hidden in plain sight.
I am going to skip array of fancy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the elegant spread laid out at the Italian soiree crashed by our American spy, Napoleon Solo. We aren’t all filthy rich villains with a string of caterers at our fingertips.
Instead, in a tribute to the American TV series, let’s fall back on that 60s favorite and standby, good old Lipton Onion Soup Dip. It’s incredibly easy to make and surprisingly good.
You can go healthy and put some raw veggies out, but if you really want to be authentic, it must be potato chips, my favorite being Ruffles with Ridges.
Lipton Onion Soup Dip Recipe
- 1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix
- 1 container (16 0z.) sour cream
1 Blend all ingredients in medium bowl; chill if desired.
2 Serve with your favorite dippers.