Not really knowing what awaited me one hot Prairie Saturday afternoon in 1963, I bought a ticket to an air-conditioned theatre and went to see the first James Bond movie, “Dr. No”.
A couple of hours later, I was back on the sweltering sidewalk, not wanting to leave, lingering over the poster and lobby cards, trying to reconcile the experience of something so new and unexpected.
Over the next months I read every one of Ian Fleming’s novels, caught up in a world of espionage, high adventure and masculine coolness I’d never imagined existed.
The rest of the planet had gone crazy for the Bond films and spies in general, so it was with great enthusiasm that I tuned in to the first television series of the genre –- “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”. And I wasn’t disappointed.
From the opening notes of Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic theme, I was hooked. Doubly hooked by the concept of Western and Soviet spies working in partnership mixed with the Bond formula of girls, gadgets and gallows humor.
Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo was sophisticated and cool while David McCallum smoldered with danger as Illya Kuryakin. The series ran 105 episodes and I doubt I missed a single one.
Therefore, it was with some trepidation I attended a screening last week of Guy Ritchie’s reboot of the franchise.
It’s a very different world now. Julian Assange and Edward Snowdon have given us a very different insight into how the intelligence community operates. We know too much about interrogation techniques and the return to a new Cold War with Russia is all too real.
Onscreen, Daniel Craig’s James Bond has become a far more daunting presence than I’m sure even Sean Connery and Ian Fleming imagined he could be.
A return to the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement felt like it might be a nostalgic trip best not taken.
But I was wrong.
The film is a joy from beginning to end, second only to “Mad Max: Fury Road” as my favorite movie of the Summer while being true to the original idea.
The chemistry between the lead actors is downright delightful and the perfect balance of intense action and fun that permeated the TV version is recreated with Ritchie’s trademark imagination and charm.
The film is getting its brains beaten in by “Straight Outta Compton” in its first weekend. But I think time and history will ultimately have Suge Knight and the boys crying U.N.C.L.E.
Do yourself a favor and take in a film that asks nothing of you but a desire to be thoroughly entertained and…
Enjoy Your Sunday.