The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 16-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Spy Vision: Recreating 60’s Cool
Featurette-A Higher Class of Hero
Featurette-Métisse Motorcycles: Proper-And Very British
Featurette-The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.
Featurette-A Man of Extraordinary Talents
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-U.N.C.L.E.: On-Set Spy
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 116:29
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Guy Ritchie
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Henry Cavill
Armie Hammer
Alicia Vikander
Elizabeth Debicki
Luca Calvani
Sylvester Groth
Hugh Grant
Jared Harris
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Daniel Pemberton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Spanish
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the latest attempt to transform a bygone television show into a new cinematic franchise, following in the shadow of Mission: Impossible, The Equalizer, Get Smart, and too many more to list. A retro, old-fashioned spy caper, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on the TV show of the same name from the 1960s, and thankfully it’s a strong enough movie to stand alone as its own entity - it still works even if you aren’t familiar with the show. Sleekly directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, Snatch), the movie is admittedly light on substance, but the execution is truly something to behold, with Ritchie working overtime to turn the humdrum narrative into a genuinely exciting blockbuster. It’s a ridiculously entertaining and often droll espionage globe-trotter, bolstered by the jazzy music, stylish photography, spot-on period detail, sumptuous locales and taut editing, and the end result is undeniably endearing, as hollow as it may be.

    Set in 1963 as the Cold War is heating up, stylish C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is assigned to retrieve a car mechanic named Gaby (Alicia Vikander) from East Berlin. Gaby is the daughter of a top nuclear scientist who’s tied to a powerful weapon with the potential to end the world, and the United States government hopes that Gaby can help find her missing father to thwart the plot. Despite the tensions between America and the Soviet Union, the warring governments recognise the gravity of the situation, putting aside their differences to work together. Thus, Solo is paired with KGB Agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), though the two are incredibly reluctant to trust one another. With the threat of doomsday looming, Solo and Kuryakin are sent to Rome with Gaby, instructed to infiltrate the inner circle of those suspected of possessing the world-ending nuclear warhead.

    It’s the period setting which sets The Man from U.N.C.L.E. apart from contemporary spy flicks. Other television adaptations like Mission: Impossible were updated to take place in the here and now, but Ritchie’s flick stays true to the source. The script recaptures the political climate and the paranoia of the 1960s, using Cold War touches to establish a logical divide between Solo and Kuryakin, who have serious trust issues and even have nicknames for one another. (Solo is “Cowboy” and Kuryakin is “Red Peril.”) On top of this, U.N.C.LE. is one of the most visually distinctive actioners of recent memory due to its retro touches, with period authenticity in terms of fashion and production design, while Daniel Pemberton provides a high-energy original score that’s full of memorable themes. Other tunes from the era are also called upon - for instance, the Italian ballad “Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera?” by Peppino Gagliardi dominates one particularly fun, tongue-in-cheek set-piece. Indeed, Ritchie’s unique cinematic sensibilities are on full display here, and it’s marvellous.

    Written by Ritchie and frequent collaborator Lionel Wigram, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. moves at an involving pace, with tight storytelling, and the script is teeming with amusing bantering and comedy which makes for a constant source of joy. Ritchie even manages to infuse the necessary exposition with his trademark visual energy, and the enormously engaging action sequences actually make sense in the context of the narrative, rather than coming across as an excuse for bombastic theatrics. Momentum does noticeably lag, however, during a prolonged torture sequence that runs beyond its logical closure point, but Ritchie compensates for this with a borderline flawless finale which manages to be smart as well as exciting. U.N.C.L.E. greatly benefits from its visual scheme, with superlative photography courtesy of veteran cinematographer John Mathieson (X-Men: First Class, Gladiator), and though the movie was lensed digitally, it does carry the look of celluloid, with a slightly washed-out colour palette to resemble spy films from the 1960s. Ritchie employs split-screens to provide an extra visual spark, and even finds time for some creative sight gags, including an inventively-staged speedboat chase.

    Cavill is a great fit for the role of Solo, with the British thespian swallowing his native accent to espouse an effectively exaggerated American drawl. He’s an enormously charismatic presence, handling the humorous dialogue effectively and coming off as effortlessly cool. Equally solid is Hammer, who just cannot catch a box office break, it seems. Still, it’s difficult to fault the actor here, who’s an irresistible Illya Kuryakin, decked out with a convincing enough Russian accent. Hammer is mostly called upon to be deadpan, but manages to be likeable, and he’s quite funny at times. Rounding out the main players is Vikander - last seen in the exceptional Ex Machina - who’s just fine as Gaby. Other actors pop up in the supporting cast, too, with the likes of Hugh Grant and Jared Harris making their mark, while Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Calvani are great villains.

    It is difficult to become genuinely invested in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but it is undeniably entertaining, with Ritchie using every tool in his cinematic arsenal to keep the movie buoyant and eye-catching, even if it’s hard to recall too much of it a few weeks after viewing. And since this is intended to be the first in a new franchise, the conclusion is open-ended to set up a possible sequel, which would be an enticing prospect. However, with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. bringing in mediocre box office returns, it’s doubtful we’ll see any follow-ups, which is a d*** shame.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. sparkles on Blu-ray, with an AVC-encoded 1080p high definition transfer that does justice to the source. I was lucky enough to view this spy yarn at the cinema, and I can say that this disc is an accurate representation of the cinematic experience. Framed at 2.40:1 and benefitting from a healthy bitrate, Roadshow have done an exceptional job bringing this underappreciated gem to home video.

    The first thing that stands out about the transfer is the light but noticeable noise which coats the video. Since the movie was shot digitally, the noise was most likely a creative decision on the part of Ritchie and cinematographer Mathieson in order to ape the look of celluloid. Noise was present in the cinema, and thankfully it wasn’t scrubbed away for disc, making for a nice retro image. Above all, the noise is very well refined and natural, accentuating the detail, and could easily be mistaken for regular film grain. There are no glitches with this transfer; no shots look too smeary, and I did not detect any aliasing or banding. Even the stylish subtitles for the non-English dialogue do not present any issues.

    Detail and sharpness are above-average, allowing us to appreciate the period detail in every frame. Elaborate costuming is nicely textured, and there’s plenty of detail on the actors’ faces. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is imbued with a distinctive, slightly dialled-back colour palette to replicate old spy movies from the 1960s, thus it does not look oversaturated - rather, it looks a little faded, resembling an old James Bond movie. Happily, the transfer handles the colour palette perfectly, with earthy flesh-tones and inky blacks, replicating what I remember seeing in the cinema. Even during darker moments, detail and delineation never falters, with no unsightly crush.

    It’s hard to pick any flaws with this transfer, which looked exceptional on my 1080p screen and just as excellent on my 4K television. It may fall short of demo material due to the nature of its photography, but it’s difficult to imagine this movie looking any better. It’s a strong, stable HD image, and another winner for Roadshow.


Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
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Audio

    Chief among the audio options on this disc is a Dolby Atmos track, which has become common on Roadshow releases. For those who aren’t Atmos-compatible, the audio defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. A few other language options are also available, in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. For the purposes of this review, though, I will focus on the lossless 7.1 track.

    Just like the video, the audio track is an ideal representation of the cinema experience. One of the more notable aspects of the audio is the score, which is almost omnipresent throughout, in keeping with Ritchie’s typical modus operandi. Luckily, the music comes through cleanly and without any issues, using the surround channels to make for an immersive sit. Levels are perfectly fine across the board, with consistently comprehensible dialogue, and sound effects that are effectively mixed. Every tyre screech, gunshot and punch has impact and oomph.

    This is not a revolutionary or life-changing track, but it’s nevertheless solid in every aspect. No complaints from me.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
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Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A small selection of extras.

Spy Vision: Recreating 60’s Cool (HD; 8:34)

    A brisk, reasonably insightful behind-the-scenes look at the film’s period detail. Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram discuss the original TV show, while various cast and crew touch on costumes, props, gadgets, cars and sets. Worth watching.

A Higher Class of Hero (HD; 7:13)

    A brief overview of several of the key action sequences in the film, with Ritchie and many of his crew talking about the challenge of making original, exciting set-pieces. There is some nice on-set footage and production insight, but at seven minutes long, this featurette is far too short.

Métisse Motorcycles: Proper-And Very British (HD; 4:49)

    Hammer heads to the Métisse factory to meet with owner Gerry Lisi, who provides a brief tour of the factory and talks about the motorcycles seen in the film.

The Guys from U.N.C.L.E. (HD; 4:57)

    Ritchie, Wigram and several other crew talk enthusiastically about Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who even did some of their own stunt driving.

A Man of Extraordinary Talents (HD; 3:16)

    A brief portrait of Guy Ritchie, who had a proclivity for playing chess and the guitar between takes. Cast and crew chime in to talk about why their admire Ritchie’s style and work ethic.

U.N.C.L.E.: On-Set Spy (HD)

Four brief fly-on-the-wall pieces that aren’t substantial enough to warrant their own standalone featurette. These can be watched individually, or via a “Play All” function.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc appears to be a direct port of the American release. Buy local.

Summary

    It's disappointing that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. failed to click with audiences are the box office, as I would have really liked to see a sequel or two. But at least we'll always have this infectiously fun actioner, which will no doubt develop into something of a cult favourite. I'm happy to own this flick.

    Roadshow's Blu-ray may feature a mediocre selection of extras, but the featurettes are of good quality, and the video & audio presentation is strong enough to warrant a recommendation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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