Let’s Talk: Movies For The Whole Family – The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – By Stephen Stachofsky.
As a fairly new father with one son and another on the way, I have found myself in the situation of having to censor what I do and do not watch. I am a huge cinephile. A lot of what makes the artform great can be the depiction of the rawest human experiences. Loss, violence, language, love, anger, hate, make for great movies. Kids movies however grate on my nerves after a while. There are only so many “movicles” (movie musicals) I can watch before losing my mind. So as a parent, even though my son is only one and a half, I am constantly trying to find a balance between a great movie, and a movie which I won’t be afraid of my kid seeing. Right now, most of the movies that I find are definitely rooted in the movicle realm. Moana, Frozen, and anything with the almighty mouse in it are super popular with my son. But, as he and his brother grow up, what movies will I feel okay with them watching, that I also enjoy?
First, I think it is important to break down a quick overview of some of my preferred movie types, and why maybe I wouldn’t show them to kids. Obviously, I am a huge nerd, and if you have read any of my D&D blogs, you know that high fantasy is my arena of choice. I think that as soon as my kids are about seven or eight, the Lord of the Rings will be a regular occurrence. I am also a huge Star Wars fan, and will treat those movies the same way. Harry Potter is one where the first 3 movies are good but 4-7 would wait until the boys are closer to 13. I own almost all the James Bond movies, and probably won’t show any of those to my boys until they are at least 15 or 16.I love gangster movies and spy movies of all types, and most of those films, like The Godfather, or Goodfellas will also have to sit on the shelf for a while. I love historical drama, especially military drama. Some of these can get super tragic and be filled with foul language, however there are 3 that I think I would show my kids as young as 13. These three are Gladiator, Kingdom of heaven, and the Patriot, all for the historic context and conversations they could spark. The more gritty superhero movies of the last couple decades, like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but also the Dark Knight trilogy will wait for various reasons too. The Marvel universe is considerably more tame, and would probably be an 5-8 years old viewing depending on the movie.
So with those considerations in mind, here is my first movie in the great movies for the whole family (that you may not have considered) category.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, and Elizabeth Debicki, and was directed by Guy Richie. This 2015 release is a witty, glamourous, reboot of the television series of the same name that premiered in 1964. The same man who turned Sherlock Holmes into an action figure, more on that later, decided to take a stab at the cold war in this flick. The result was quite fun. Before I dive into some of the best parts of the movie I want to highlight what brings this movie to the table. The Man from UNCLE is rated PG-13 for “violence and some suggestive content”. There is no foul language. There are no graphic sex scenes. There is no gore or blood. The violence is almost all hand to hand, and some gunplay, but there is no blood, and no one bleeds out. The dialogue is witty and well-acted. The two leading men and the leading ladies play off each other in a delightful way. The plot is fairly complex but it is easy to follow the surface points, leaving the more complex points to be enjoyed by the more adult viewers. It contains a wonderfully thrilling car chase. Some of the historic context may spark conversations which could become good teaching moments. The movie features two wonderful female characters, one of whom is a superb villain. The whole vibe of the movie is nostalgic, but not overbearingly retro. Guy Ritchie uses a ton of unique camera angles and manipulations to really make every scene stand out.
The opening scenes of the movie introduce your whole cast, which is great for children and those of us in the adult world with short attention spans. You get to meet the three leading characters as the American CIA agent, Napoleon Solo (Cavill) sneaks into East Berlin in an effort to extract an East German mechanic, Gaby (Vikander), only to be chased across half of Eastern Berlin in a death-defying car chase by the KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Hammer). This contains a moment when Kuryakin (Hammer) runs down the car that Solo (Cavill) and Gaby (Vikander) are driving, and literally tears off the trunk trying to stop the car. The action is in some cases a little unbelievable but so much fun to watch. The very next scenes have our unlikely heroes teaming up to chase down ex-Nazi rocket scientists in Rome. The banter between Solo and Kuryakin is some of the best dialogue in the movie, with each trying to one up the other in a miniature play out of the power struggle between their two respective nations. Eventually we discover that not everyone is who they claim, and we get a wonderful flashback sequence with details pointed out that we, as the audience, and our heroes, missed. Every twist and turn is an edge of your seat experience without stepping over into some of the darkest parts of the human experience. There is a wonderful action sequence at the end of the movie where the heroes are trying to storm a complex. Without giving too much away, Guy Ritchie did a wonderful mashup of what could have been a very long drawn-out combat sequence that is extremely fun to watch. This movie in particular is one that I find contains something new in every viewing. I have watched it a dozen times and every time I find a detail or aspect that I hadn’t noticed before.
I highly recommend this fun spy film. It will instantly become a shelf classic. Shelf classics are those movies you can go back to time and time again that are always a joy to watch . Use your best judgment when it comes to the violence in the film and don’t be afraid to discuss a little about the cold war or Nazis. If you’re a fan of the genre, you will appreciate the cloak and dagger aspects of the plot as you come to find that no one ever has all the information at once. If you have kids and you are in the mood for a good spy flick, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. could be a fun and safe way to introduce anyone to the genre. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can be found on streaming and I hope you have fun watching it. Feel free to let the team and I know your thoughts in the comment section.
Stephen and the Storytelling Breakdown team