Scene Analysis: A Last Drink

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So, I want to talk about this scene.

The sense of foreboding menace—particularly when you get those shots of Illya’s reflection in the mirror, slowly unzipping his jacket and reaching for his gun—made my skin crawl with equal parts anticipation and terror.

There’s just something about viewing Illya not only through the filter of Napoleon but also through the reflection in the mirror that set my teeth on edge.  The audience has undoubtedly come to care about Illya, and in this moment we’re distanced from him, disconnected.

In the beginning of the movie, Illya’s an inhuman shadow that stalks Napoleon and Gaby through the streets of Berlin.  He’s subsequently humanized through his interactions with the two of them, but especially Gaby.  The movie, by calling back to those early scenes, is forcing us to ask ourselves whether anything has really changed.  Is the Illya we came to care for—the Illya who came to care for Gaby and Napoleon and vice versa—real?  Or is it the shadowy, monstrous form we—and Napoleon—first glimpsed in the mirror in East Berlin?

The answer is, of course, yes.  Everything has changed.  Illya has changed.  And, I think, we know that, instinctively.  But the movie does a very good job here of forcing us to confront the uncomfortable reality that: maybe nothing has actually changed.

And: they might not all get out of this alive.

(Originally posted on Tumblr. Minor (very minor) edits have been made.)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – ★★★½

Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a dizzying, sometimes silly, sometimes serious spy romp that goes down smoothly like a sip of iced tea on a hot summer day. Ritchie, well known for his crime comedies and two installments of the Sherlock Holmes movie franchise, reboots the old ’60s spy TV franchise of the same name, reintroducing C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to a 21st century audience while keeping its feet firmly planted in the past.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin go for a romp on a Vespa.
Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin go for a romp on a Vespa.

The film begins in East Berlin, with a young auto mechanic named Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl), whose father is a rocket scientist essentially abducted to work on a nuclear weapon when she was a child. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, Man of Steel)—a gentleman thief coerced into the C.I.A. in order to avoid a prison sentence—has been ordered to extract Gaby and deliver her over the Berlin wall. Standing in their way is the mysterious, almost inhuman KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer, The Social Network).

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Sunset Boulevard (1950) – ★★★★★

“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Sunset Boulevard, a genre-bending (and defying) Hollywood classic, tells the tragic story of Norma Desmond, a washed up silent picture star, and Joe Gillis, a failed second-rate screenwriter.

The film opens infamously with a dead body floating in a swimming pool, as Gillis narrates from beyond the grave, telling of the events that lead up to his untimely death.

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