STORY BY ERIC DEUTZ
Another September week goes by, which means another week of catching up on the summer movies I missed as I patiently await for the award season to start.
And oh, how difficult it is to be patient.
I made it to two very different pieces of cinema this week – “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a highly- stylistic spy-action-thriller based on a TV show from the 1960s and via Drake’s own Free Movie Friday “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” an extremely simplistic dramatic-thriller based on the real, infamous psychological experiment that took place in the 1970s. And yet, different as they may be, they actually complemented each other quite well.
Both films excel in their own way, and both films seem to falter in the exact area that the other excelled in.
One had style, one had story. One had all of Europe, one had a single confined education hall in Stanford. One had seasoned actors, one had fresh, new faces. One had foolishness, one had wisdom. It was the best of films, it was the worst of films. (Well, that’s a little extreme.) But in their own way, they both served their purpose as typical summer flicks.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” tells the story of two spies in the 1960s one American (Henry Cavill) and one Russian (Armie Hammer) who are forced to work together (gasp!) to halt the threat of an atomic bomb. That’s about as complicated as the plot gets. From there on, director Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes, ““Snatch”) packs on style, style and more style.
And credit must be given where it’s due: This movie features some brilliant directing moments. A scene involving a malfunctioning torture device particularly stands out.
But in the end, the story is boring, uneven throughout, and not nearly as funny as it wants to be.
Cavill and Hammer play the stereotypes of their characters extremely well, but they never show any depth, and by the end of the film I had no desire to follow their stories anymore. They could learn a thing or two from cast mate Alicia Vikander, playing a woman who gets caught up in the action (seemingly) against her will. Vikander is quickly becoming one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood, and for good reason. She’s smart, clever and always entertaining to watch – essentially, the opposite of this film she was stuck in.
Meanwhile, “The Stanford Prison Experiment” dramatizes the well-known psychological experiment in which volunteers were paid to be either prisoners or guards in a simulated prison in an effort to see the effects an institution can have on an individual.
I’ve anticipated the making of this movie being made since my high school sociology course, and all involved do the story justice.
Standouts here include the maniacal Ezra Miller (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) as the most rebellious prisoner and Michael Angarano (“Sky High”) as the terrifyingly confident and unapologetic lead guard. It’s a powerful story told with passion and commitment.
Unfortunately, it was also quite limited in its scope – it told the story of the experiment and nothing more, which meant the meat of the story was everything right in the middle, leaving the beginning and the ending awkward and uneven. Luckily, in this case, the twisted and unbelievable reality of this story makes uneasy transitions seem like a very small, unimportant detail.
One film chose story, one chose style. The best films, the films I’ve been awaiting, weren’t either of these films. And with new films from Johnny Depp and director Denis Villenueve just entering theatres, hopefully, I shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. : C-
The Stanford Prison Experiment: B