Monday, August 17, 2015

Only My Mother Calls Me Napoleon: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. & Erasure

The tagline, "A higher class of hero," just beneath the "UNCLE," tells us what we need to know about the yellow background: it's about class. Needless to say, this post contains spoilers, so if you don't want to know what happens, please, stop reading now. Yellow, as we know, denotes royalty because it's the color of gold and only royalty can afford gold (in the old days when symbols were being created so we could unconsciously  communicate as a civilization), so when someone is being "enthroned" or set as an example, yellow is an excellent color, being the color of kings. Because it is the color of kings, it can also denote cowardice because a king exists to lead his people bravely, and if a king doesn't, the very sign of his royalty (in this case, yellow for gold no one else gets to have) also becomes the sign of his incompetence. With Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya (Armie Hammer), they earn the golden background because of their heroic act of agreeing to not kill each other and burn the "disc" (whatever that 1960s contraption thing is they stored data on) so neither country would have an unfair advantage over the other (and Solo returning Illya's father's watch plays a crucial, symbolic role in this scene that we will discuss below). The enormous amount of the background being yellow invokes the tradition of religious icons, such as the Theotokos of Vladimir, among many others. Why do this? In icons, the background were usually done in gold to relate to the viewer that the space (or area) the saint or religious figure was in within the icon was not a temporal or earthly space, rather, a space existing in eternity and perfection, which is why icons never have shadows in them. Likewise, we don't see shadows in the poster above, and there is no real temporal space or location in which we can place Solo and Illya. Between the tagline, "A higher class of hero," and the yellow/gold background acting to convey iconic status upon the two spies, we can deduce that they are, indeed, political "saints." Why would Guy Ritchie want to convey this to us and why do these characters deserve such an apotheosis? Because they both experience "conversion," and while we generally discuss conversion in the religious life, Illya and Solo experience it professionally and personally, making them Ritchie's secular saints. This is validated when Uncle Rudy has Solo in the electric chair and swings the light bulb over his head in a circle, making a "halo" effect: Rudy knows he is the sinner, and Solo the saint, however, being the cowardly socialist he is, Rudy doesn't want to be converted himself. Further, when Solo and Illya discuss what to do with Rudy, and Rudy's chair electrocutes him, starting a fire, it rather suggests the old "burning at the stake" of heretics and that was certainly done by the righteous to preserve freedom (the idea being that "witch hunts" happened during the McCarthy years in the US and those communist witches who were found should have been burned at the stake because of the threat they pose to civilization and freedom.) Now, the obvious question: it's called "the man" from uncle, not "the men" from uncle, so which "man" is being targeted as being THE ONE from UNCLE? Both of them. Look at how their bodies blend together, like Siamese twins: Illya's right leg becomes Solo's leg leg, and Solo having his left hand in his pocket is like self-binding because Illya is now his left hand. They make a good team because, while Illya knows when to shoot, Solo knows when NOT to shoot (you may recall a similar conversation in Skyfall between Bond and Q at the museum and knowing when to pull a trigger or not). Please note that both men are looking to their left; why? Because the threats and international dangers in the world always come from the (political) Left. Last, but certainly not least, is the typography of the word "U.N.C.L.E." Note that it's in both white and black, and it's curved, as if the word "uncle" covers up another word, or another document; if you don't know what "erasure" is as a literary or philosophical device, we will discuss it below because the film is full of it; for the moment, however, know that it's a means of displaying a double-meaning at the same time and that it alerts its audience to the need for (active) interpretation.
This isn't so much a "love letter to spy films" as it is an "ode to history" (this post contains numerous spoilers: you have been warned). From the very beginning of the film, we see writer/director Guy Ritchie morphing into "The History Guy" and presenting us with The Cold War For Dummies; why? Because there are a lot of dummies in the world who know absolutely nothing about the Cold War and Ritchie thinks this is the perfect time to educate audiences on what the Cold War meant, on numerous fronts. Given the seriousness of the topic, it's delivered with great comedic effects in numerous scenes with a plethora of literary devices to enhance the narrative structure and characterization.
Let's begin with the first scene.
The great truth of communism: they don't have to build a wall to keep people out, they have to build a wall to keep people in, and it's over, through and under that people tried to escape socialism imposed on them by the Soviets (we get a brief glimpse of this in the introductory history lesson Ritchie provides the audience at the start of the film; consequently, there is a brief scene of some people running through the minefield and trying to get through the barbed wire; the sweater of one of the men gets caught on the wire and goes up over his head, momentarily blinding him and stopping him; why would Ritchie pick this moment to highlight the Berlin Wall? The sweater getting caught and blinding the man acts as a metaphor of people who had become dependent upon the government for providing them with all their material needs; the barbed wire, which is used to keep animals in pastures, is being used to keep humans in their "pastures" where their basic needs are provided--which is why socialist and communist societies are nicknamed "state farms"--and, in the moment that this man is dashing to freedom, he is suddenly blinded by the loss of assured material sustenance, whereas in the West, to where he's trying to escape, the capitalists assure freedom but with that freedom comes the freedom to fail and the freedom from being cared for like an animal. This man, escaping communism in this desperate moment, is just now realizing the choice he is making and the consequences, and Ritchie is showing us this to demonstrate that communism changes and alters our fundamental abilities to become self-sufficient and define what freedom is). No one tried to get into East Berlin because the healthcare was so good, or the service industry or the government benefits, people were risking their lives to escape these very hallmarks of socialist society because they were so bad. Solo's glance over his shoulder appears as a simple gesture, however, that's because we take for granted the free world in which we live. Crossing over into East Berlin means crossing over into a different world: the world of Big Brother. Sunglasses are one of the film's strong symbols (regrettably, because so freaking much is happening in the film at any given time, on any given narrative level, I couldn't keep track of all of it from a mere single viewing; trust me, they are important). Technically, we were sunglasses to shield our eyes from the sun, symbolically, however, they denote that a character is "enlightened" or is seeing more than we are being told explicitly (in this way, Ritchie employs sunglasses as yet another form of "erasure" in the film). The sunglasses, then, alert the viewer that Solo's eyes (under "erasure" by virtue of the dark glasses he wears) are functioning at a higher level, symbolically and metaphysically, than our own eyes. For example, consider the Coen Brothers' film Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? In the story, the three criminals encounter a blind man and George Clooney's character decodes the blind man has having the gift of greater sight or prophecy. We can somewhat relate the scene and interpretation to Solo above: the glasses appear to blind him, yet his sight is enhanced for picking up on what most of us would miss, such as Illya spying on him in the polished chrome at the checkpoint, and the police following him.  
1963.
Berlin.
The Berlin Wall.
How many young people, i.e., Millennials, even know what the Berlin Wall was? If anyone was going to go into the film with an "open mind," Ritchie makes sure he closes it to any possibility that socialism is in any way beneficial to humanity: between the opening sequences of Winston Churchill, juxtaposed against Hitler and the beginnings of the Atomic Era, to a later sequence of photographs in a scrapbook detailing the horrors of the concentration camp, anyone wanting to count Guy Ritchie as a "progressive" or "enlightened liberal" would have an impossible hurdle to overcome: his fluency in empirical facts. What's even more damaging to the Left's self-righteous position is that he demonstrates the historical truth of what happens to people who appear to love living under socialism/communism: witness the parents of Illya.
This scene provides us with incredible material with which to work. We see Solo himself interpreting the situation in which he finds himself and deducing a conclusion to action based upon that. In the back seat, Solo is "blind." so he asks Gabby questions so he can properly determine what is happening, i.e., his interpreting his circumstances, because Ritchie wants us the viewers to interpret the circumstances, too. THEN, Solo tells Gabby, "When you hear something that sounds like a gun shot, drive," so he invites her interpretation into the scene as well; why? Because once we begin interpreting one scene, we will realize the whole film requires a deeper interpretation. Solo rolls down the window with his foot; why? Feet symbolize our will, because our feet take us in life to where we want to go the way our will directs us on our life path that we want to take. The window symbolizes reflection but it's the character's inner-reflection that is taking place; in this scene, Solo rolling down the window (self-reflection) with his foot (his will), translates to mean that he is intentionally not going to reflect on shooting this person following him because he's putting Gabby's safety before the life of this other agent. When Solo does shoot, his makes two shots at the face, through the glass. The glass, again symbolizing reflection, means that Illya is to reflect on Solo shooting him in the cheek, which means, if the situation were reversed, you would be trying to kill me, so don't take this personally. Now, thee are two shots, both of them miss, and each of those shots foreshadows the two upcoming instances when Solo doesn't kill Illya even though he could: the first one being when Illya is in his wrecked car and Solo goes over to it with his gun ready, and the second is when Illya chases the car and Gabby tells Solo to shoot Illya but Solo says it doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Why? When Illya and Solo are told they are working together, and they compare notes about what they know of the other, Illya calls Solo the "CIA's most effective agent," but Solo hasn't killed anyone, meaning, Solo isn't effective because he's a killer--like Illya--rather, Solo is effective because he knows how to NOT kill someone, which is its own skill set (like when Solo knows Illya's going to be tested by being robbed to see whether or not he's a KGB agent or really an architect; Solo saves that situation by not letting Illya kill the two men, but Illya saves Solo and Gabby later by killing Victoria's husband [more on that below]). 
When Solo and Illya have been told they are working together, both agents compare notes about how much the other all ready knows and attempt to destroy one another to establish which will be the alpha. Solo reveals that Illya's father was an aide to Stalin who was found guilty of embezzling funds and sent to the Gulag to spend the rest of his life in a prison camp and Illya's mother was a whore with her husband's friends. This is a masterful recreation of history that reveals someone who genuinely knew what happened in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We'll start by analyzing what happened to Illya's father.
This shot is incredible, and it's cinematic moments like these that make Guy Ritchie, Guy Ritchie. If you aren't familiar with erasure, or sous rature, please take a moment to scroll down this page to the image of the two posters with heavy black marks and writing on them, and the Superman poster, and then come back to this image. Part of Solo is being put, literally, under erasure, as half of his face disappears in the darkness. Now, what's tricky about "reading" a moment like this in film is the confusion with the symbolism of the color black: black symbolizes death, there is good death and bad death, so we could (falsely) interpret the lighting in this shot to mean either a). Solo is alive to the virtues of the soul and so he's dead to the world, or b). that Solo is dead to the virtues of his soul but he's alive to the world. The problem with theory a). is that we know Solo is a worldly man and the problem with b). is we know Solo has many virtues, even if he's not perfect (please consider again the "religious" dimensions of the yellow poster above and that the final scene of the film takes place in Rome, the holy city, and they are surrounded by churches). So, neither interpretation is sufficient, but we know this is a scene that requires us to enter into a deeper dialogue in order to understand Solo's character; erasure will help us accomplish that. Half of Solo's face is being place "under erasure," suggesting that a part of his own being is entering into the situation of whether or not to go to Illya's wrecked car and make sure he's finished off for good (which Solo doesn't do). Why? We know the CIA recognized that Solo had talents better used on an international scale rather than rotting in prison, and that recognition of Solo's talents permits him now to  "see deeper into" Illya then just seeing another agent, which is what this scene most likely wants to convey to us. Because the CIA rescued the criminal Solo from fifteen years in prison, that act of kindness has made Solo a better person who is apt to do the same for someone else, in this situation, Illya. Recognizing Illya's determination and skills as being comparable to his own, Solo doesn't want to waste Illya's talents by killing him. We don't have to use erasure to get at this, we could pull out something a little simpler, namely, that Solo's own "shadowy past" has caused him to be more "enlightened" about others and that's why he doesn't walk to the car and kill Illya. The problem is, we know Illya isn't dead and he's got his gun drawn, ready to shoot Solo and Illya will kill Solo even though Solo won't kill Illya. Employed throughout the film, erasure provides a stronger, deeper entry into Solo's character because shadows aren't used in the rest of the film; further, because erasure reveals a more sophisticated approach, we are apt to fail in providing Ritchie the credit his artistry deserves if we don't deploy the erasure perspective in this clip. The complicated understanding of this moment is verified by a little trick Ritchie uses to link this scene to the scene where Uncle Rudy tortures him even though it's not included in the image above: an iridescent rainbow caused by refracted light. As Solo's head shifts in the image above, in the film. which I didn't catch until the third time I watched it, Ritchie includes a small "rainbow" effect that he utilizes again with the swinging light bulb as Uncle Rudy describes his past to Solo; why? It highlights the different reasons why Solo would be willing to kill Illya, vs. the reasons why Uncle Rudy is willing to kill Solo: necessity and preservation of freedom in the West, and sadistic pleasure on order from a treacherous Nazi boss. Why would Ritchie connect these two scenes using lighting? It "illuminates" the audience about the inner-motivations of each character, motivations that could be tediously bogged down in meaningless dialogue (this is how a good film makers shows, rather than tells). 
It's possible that, indeed, Mr. Kuryakin was embezzling funds; that's why people joined the Party (just because you lived in a communist society didn't mean you were automatically a member of the Party, as in The Book Thief when Geoffrey Rush's character, a painter, is courted to join the Nazi Party, which was the socialist party). Just as joining a (socialist) union in America today "gets you more benefits," so joining the Party meant you would get more benefits as well, like taking extra money for yourself. There is a problem with this, however: embezzling money wasn't really a crime in Stalin-era Russia; not supporting Stalin, however, was a serious crime. What's my evidence for this?
Napoleon Solo.
Another great scene. Solo has asked Gabby to look out the window and, when she does, she sees Illya and believes Illya's going to kill her. Again, windows symbolize reflection, as it does when Solo is in the back seat of Gabby's car and he rolls the window down. What do we see in this image? There are broken windows. Why? Gabby's ability to reflect on her situation isn't complete: Solo asks her to think about where her father would be, but she hasn't seen her father in forever, so she can't "reflect" on him; because she doesn't know who Illya is, or whether she can really trust Solo, she can't really "reflect" on that either. Please note the ceiling above Solo's head: the white paint is chipping away to reveal the stone beneath; this is a further example of erasure the film employs. Because it's just above Solo's head, it suggests it has something to do with what Solo is thinking. For example, in the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven, after Eastwood's character tells Morgan Freeman's character about the whores' offer of money to kill those cowboys, Freeman's character steps through a doorway and there is a rifle hanging on the wall above his head, so the rifle above his head becomes a thought-bubble (like in comics) and we can see that even though Freeman's character is talking about something else, he's thinking about taking his gun and going to kill those cowboys. Likewise, with Solo above: the chipping paint reveals, literally, that Solo is putting pieces together and understanding that there is a larger picture of a larger scheme being played out around Gabby (his realization that the officer at the check point put a tracker in his briefcase, and that Illya has been following him); if we look just above Gabby's head, nearly all the white paint is gone, revealing that she knows more about what is going on than does Solo (for example, that she has all ready been recruited by the British and she knew that someone like Solo was bound to approach her about her father).  A further detail about Gabby: we know the head is the governing function, and the hair and accessories on the head symbolize thoughts; the scarf Gabby wears, hiding part of her hair, suggests she is not telling Solo something (that she's all ready working for the British) and her hair pulled up and pinned demonstrates that Gabby is disciplined in her thoughts, that she can go about without giving herself away. On another note, we also see Victoria wearing her head in a scarf, and it ties the two women together: just as Gabby doesn't "gab" and keeps her plans to herself, we can say the same of Victoria with her plans to kill Gabby and her father; we can also say that, ultimately, the two women want to reverse roles. Gabby wants to live in the West, refusing to go back to East Berlin, but Victoria wants to live in a world where everyone lives in a state of East Berlin because she wants the whole world to be under her domineering control. The film doesn't ask us to make a choice between Solo and Illya as to which of the spies we prefer, however, it does ask us to make a choice between Gabby and Victoria, because only one of those women can exist in the world (more on this below).  Lastly, we see that Gabby has a rag over her shoulder: the shoulders symbolize our burdens that we carry, and it draws our attention to the burden Gabby has to carry regarding her father: specifically, that he abandoned her. Even though her father didn't come looking for her, Gabby now has to go looking for him. 
When Solo has Gabby at the safe house, and Solo meets with Saunders, Saunders makes it clear to Solo that he knows Solo has been keeping extra cash for his wardrobe and culinary tastes, and he allows that because Solo is valuable to them, but Saunders chooses to ignore it. We can say this would be the same regarding Stalin: Stalin didn't really care about lawlessness as long as everyone kept to one law and one law only: worship Stalin as a demi-god. We see the exact circumstances in the Obama regime today: Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Sebelius, General Petraeus, Lois Lerner and the head of the IRS, and any other number of corrupt officials are free to go their merry way, as long as they don't go against Obama or say anything bad about him. Ritchie structuring the exchange with Solo and Saunders regarding Solo's own "embezzlement" is meant to lead us to the real reason Mr. Kuryakin was sent to the Gulag: he opposed StalinPlease click on Stalin's home Wikipedia page to see the multitude of Purges and show trials Stalin had to get rid of those who opposed him, or had enough power to oppose him, and the millions of people he had put to death during his reign (historians disagree on the exact number, but they agree it was in the millions). What about Mrs. Kuryakin?
This scene illustrates the larger narrative nicely: Gabby is the one driving throughout the whole film. It appears she is the one in the backseat, being told what to do and not to do by Solo and Illya, however, the truth of the situation changes when she reveals to Uncle Rudi that she is wearing a tracker and Solo works for the CIA and Illya for the KGB. Her gesture of looking behind her (to the back seat) and then down (where Solo conceals himself) reveals that she is indeed new to this game of spy vs. spy. When Solo first enters the mechanics' shop, he speaks to Gabby in German about the shortcomings of the model's engine she is working on, noting that she has upgraded it extensively. This acts as a nice reflection on Gabby herself: she probably wouldn't have made much of a spy, but she's upgraded herself in the time since British Intelligence contacted her and Solo's contact, and she's going to be successful at staying ahead of them to insure the mission is a success. Now, on an entirely different note, why--when Gabby finally meets her father after 18 years--does she slap him when he says, "Gabby, I've made a terrible mistake,"? This is open-ended, that is, we can come up with any number of reasons, and any of them are just as right as another, but I would like to posit two of them now: first, that Dr. Teller had it so easy in America (as Solo describes to Gabby in her garage about Teller living the American Dream) and he goes and betrays the country and world that gave him so much when she had so little growing up; another possibility, which is congruent with the former, is that Teller calls making a nuclear warhead for Nazis a "mistake" and Gabby recognizes it is far worse than that, and tries to slap some sense into his head: he has abused his free will to go and jeopardize the free will of the entire world and, rather than risk his life in refusing (the way she knows Illya and Solo would do, because she has been around these real men now for a while and knows what to expect of them) she realizes her father doesn't measure up, which is also why she isn't disappointed by his loss; perhaps she is even relieved. Why does Alexander (Victoria's husband) leave when he sees Gabby slap Dr. Teller? I think, and I could be very wrong, so fill in your own interpretation, that because Gabby has made an emotional outburst, and hasn't kept herself under control two times now (the first was earlier when she revealed Illya and Solo as spies) and now she has slapped her father, Alexander believes she isn't hiding anything, that she is easy to read and they will be able to manipulate her according to their plans.
It's not just that she was a whore, but that is what the socialist State made her into. Just as Gabby is equal to men in the mechanic's shop, so Mrs. Kuryakin's sexuality was equal to the men belonging to the Party. Now, by "equal" to the men in the Party, I don't mean she was inherently inferior to men, quite the opposite; as a woman myself, and a Christian, I belief God created woman to be above men, that's why Eve was created from Spirit, whereas Adam was created from dust. Because woman naturally has a closer relationship to God because of the matter from which she is created, she is meant to help man attain heaven and become closer to God (this is what is meant in woman being man's helper: to help him get to heaven because, as most men know, they need all the help they can get :) ). Socialism takes woman from her elevated standing, and demotes her, brainwashing her to forget about what her true purpose and calling is in life so she will start behaving like the men she is actually meant to save from acting like men and, instead, will become the exact opposite of what she was created to be: a whore. Socialism does this because it must replace God with the Party and keep people happy, which it does with drugs (vodka, in the case of Russia, marijuana in the case of Colorado), sex and equal poverty among all. Now, why does Solo question which of the circumstances made Illya become so ambitious?
Why doesn't Illya and Gabby get to kiss? There are at least three times the two of them are about ready to kiss, and then they are somehow interrupted; why? Because that is what actually happened in history. Gabby symbolizes East Berlin and Germany, where she is from; Illya symbolizes Soviet Russia, where he is from. In spite of their long standing political relationship behind the Iron Curtain, an actual love affair between East Germany and Russia never actually took place, which is most likely due to Berlin being split in two: there was always the hope of reunification in the hearts of Germans, and things were so bad in East Germany--as Gabby's refusal to go back to East Berlin attests to--that reunification could only happen on one condition: it was a Western reunification, not an Eastern (Soviet) reunification. Please note that Gabby wears green and white in this scene: they are off to the race tracks to meet her Uncle Rudi and the green which we see in so many of the scenes of the film, including in the men's restroom when Solo and Illya meet, as well as the color of the helicopter she rides to go and see her father, it warrants examination. Green, as we know, either symbolizes hope and new life, or that something is rotten. It would be easy to see Gabby as being "rotten" in wearing the green dress because she is working for the British and hasn't been honest with Illya and Solo, however, Gabby wears a white hat, which reveals her thoughts to us that she is thinking in the "purest" of terms and realizes that she's in a dangerous situation and so is the whole world and that's what she's acting upon. I've talked about Solo valuing individuality, and this would be a good time to analyze how Illya doesn't value individuality: "I like my women strong."  This isn't a sexist comment, this is a socialist comment, because all women are equal and Illya could just as legitimately be engaged to any number of women, as long as they are strong. Illya knows that he also has no individuality within the KGB, and that if he doesn't do his job of getting the disc, he will be exterminated and someone else will be given the job of getting it. 
"I do wonder," Solo tells Illya, "if it was your father's shame or your mother's reputation which gave you such ambition?" Why does Solo say this? In socialism, there is no reason to excel. Would you like to know one of the main reasons the Soviet Union finally fell? Mikhail Gorbachev was sick and tired of going to department stores where all the people working there were rude; in every section of Soviet society, people were rude, products were of terrible quality, things were never in stock and the idea of "customer service" simply didn't exist. They couldn't be fired, or if they were, the responsibility of finding them a new job was on the State. No one is rewarded or punished for doing anything, so that Solo could see Illya progressing through the KGB so quickly and at such a young age meant that he knew some stronger incentive than recognition was driving Illya and that is shame. Now, what about Illya's take on Solo?
Throughout most of the film, Solo's hair is perfect. Hair, as we know, symbolizes our thoughts because it's so close to our head, that it reveals how or what a character is thinking. This is the first scene when a few of Solo's hairs are not perfectly combed back, suggesting that he doesn't think teaming up with Russia is a good idea. Later, after they have been told they are taking orders from British intelligence and they are on board with Waverly, and Illya and Solo are on the plane talking to their respective handlers, each agent is told to kill the other if need be to get the disc. Again, in that scene, Solo's hair is really messed up, suggesting that, by that point in the film, his thought is that it wouldn't be a good idea to kill Illya, or that anyone should have that disc and this is part of Solo's conversion which makes him a "higher class of hero." 
When Illya goes over Solo's records and his information (before they meet and are told they are working together) the archivist loading the slides put Solo's mug shot in the wrong way, and it appears upside-down when Illya first sees it; why? This was, one might say, a Freudian slip on the part of the communists, because Solo is a criminal. It is, literally, an upside-down world when a criminal can work off his debt by being of service to the government; why?
Please click on these images to expand them. On the left is the first poster released for the Kathryn Bigelow film, Zero Dark Thirty; in the middle is my reproduction of Martin Heidegger's example of a letter in which a word was first put "under erasure," and on the right is an image for the upcoming film Batman vs. Superman, also starring Henry Cavill. Another Cavill film, The Cold Light Of Day, used erasure extensively to build up Will's transforming character (please see Without Baggage: Erasure & Identity In The Cold Light Of Day for more). Sous rature, or the practice of putting a word "under erasure" as it is translated, began with Continental philosopher Martin Heidegger in a letter to a friend: Heidegger could not think of a better word to describe what he wanted to communicate other than "being," but he also realized that "being" didn't begin to communicate everything he wanted to communicate; by drawing a line through the word (as is demonstrated in the middle image) the word was still legible, yet--in being crossed out--it also came to communicate to the reader that the word was unsuitable in its ordinary and even extra-ordinary meaning, but the author's intended meaning surpassed the horizon of language's ability to communicate the author's meaning. I hope that is as clear as mud. So, what's the big deal? As the two film posters indicate, erasure takes on a visual and aesthetic meaning in addition to a purely ideational meaning (the "two-side sign" model as developed by Saussaure). For example, the phrase, "Zero dark thirty" is a military term meaning half past midnight; how can we put that "under erasure" with what we have just learned about the practice? Half-past midnight was the time the SEAL team entered the Osama compound and took him out, so the start of that operation is meant to convey how long it took for justice to be carried out for the horrendous crime committed on 9/11 against America (this is just skimming the top of the film; please see Reflections, Masks, Noise, Erasure: Zero Dark Thirty for more). So, to summarize: to put something "under erasure" means the author/artist wants a deeper, greater meaning to be invoked for consideration by the reader/viewer. When, for example, we see documents in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that have heavy black marker lines drawn through them, we know those are classified documents and "the good stuff" which is classified has been marked out, and only the boring, non-important information has been left legible. Ritchie is doing that throughout the entire film. Now, consider the poster for Superman on the right. We know the eyes are "the windows of the soul" because a house shelters a person's body the way a body shelters the person's soul; we see into a house by looking through a window, and we can see the presence of a person's soul by looking into their eyes. So, why is there a bat symbol over Superman's eyes? Jacques Derrida took Heidegger's idea of erasure and further applied it throughout his own early writings, going so far as to annotate Saussure that we can understand the signifiers of language only through the "difference" with other signifiers; in more clear terms, we understand "cat" if we understand "dog"; the differences between the way the words of written and pronounced aide us in determining in context when a feline with fur is intended as opposed to a canine with fur (for more on Erasure and other critical theories, please see the most excellent reference guide  The Encyclopedia Of Contemporary Literary Theory). With the Superman poster above, the familiar bat symbol being used as an aesthetic marker of erasure means (at least on one level) that we will come to know Superman in his relationship of difference to Batman, and we will come to have a greater understanding of who Batman is because of his relationship in difference to Superman. Why is this important? Because difference is the exact opposite of socialism! Socialism wants to make everyone the same, but when differences are being celebrated and studied, the highlighting of those differences fundamentally undermines the premise of socialism that we are all the same or that we can be made to be all the same. In The Man From U.N.C.L.E., specifically with the references to the yellow poster at the very top of the post, as we learn about Solo's and Illya's similarities, and their increasing ability to function as a team, they are still defined by their difference to each other and from others (both agents and non-agents).  
Because, to a socialist, the government is God, and the government can do everything; with Solo, the government was admitting it needed him and his skills, because in capitalism, there are individuals, and individuals have gifts, talents and skills, and they are unique. In socialism, there is no such thing: a person commits a crime, the government executes them and the next person in line takes their place doing whatever needed to be done. Why does Illya not understand why Solo has risen through the CIA?
"Why don't you shoot him?" Gabby asks Solo, and Solo, watching Illya attempt to stop the car with his feet, and rip the trunk off the car replies, "Somehow it doesn't seem right."  Again, we are in a position to choose between interpreting shadows or erasure, because of the black area across Solo's forehead and covering the top of his head. Solo is looking out the window, so we know he is "reflecting," because that is what mirrors and glass symbolize, and because he looks behind himself, we can say he "reflects on the/his past" even though the events are taking place in the present in the film. If we interpret the dark spot on his head to be a "shadow," then we might be lead to inerpret this as Solo having "dark thoughts" about Illya, which wouldn't be accurate because--even though Illya would kill Solo right now if he could--we know Solo doesn't kill Illya (or let him die) the numerous times Solo has that chance, so interpreting that dark area on Solo's head to be "thoughts of doing a dark deed, like murder" won't be consistent with the rest of the film. If, however, we apply erasure once again, then that means that Solo understands something more is happening, and as he looks out the rear window, and Illya tears the trunk off, Solo sees how he himself had behaved when he was arrested (because the trunk is where our baggage is kept, and Illya will expose Solo's baggage as being a criminal) and, again, is able to see Illya's skills the way the CIA saw Solo's because, being an American, Solo believes in the individual and singularity (remember, when they are escaping the satellite factory, and Solo has been thrown off the boat and he watches the boat chase in the truck, Solo sees Illya's boat blowing up in flames in the rear view mirror of the truck, like he watches Illya chasing them in this scene in the rear window of Gabby's car; this is another scene Ritchie wants to link, demonstrating that Solo could kill or let Illya die in both scenes, but he has a respect for him that won't allow him to do that even though he prefers to work alone and certainly not with a KGB agent). We can say, on another important level that Solo, at this point in the spying game, has gained respect for Illya's perseverance and recognizes Illya as an individual and that's why Solo doesn't shoot him: it doesn't seem right to shoot a human being because, as a Westerner, we value individuality and I would be going against my deepest held belief system if I did shoot him right now, Solo thinks to himself (yes, when he's in the safe house, talking to Sanders, he calls Illya an "it" and says, "it was barely human," but I think that was actually some grudging compliment to Illya's perseverance in keeping up with Solo's escape). Illya, as a Soviet, does not value individuals or individuality, and that's trained within them: remember the threat his Intelligence handler uses to get the computer disc from Solo towards the end? Illya's service isn't going to be remembered, just that Illya responds to threats of humiliation and that can be used against Illya to "program him" to do what the State wants. This leads us to an interesting conflict between Illya and Solo, one that doesn't clearly come out, but is there nonetheless: Mr. Kuryakin, Illya's father, was sent to Siberia for embezzling money (whether he actually did or not is not our concern at the moment) and that act of theft was harshly punished, but rewarded when Solo was caught stealing and given a job in the CIA. During the credits, when we see the paper work of each of the agents, if you look closely, when it details that Illya has "psychotic episodes," it also diagnoses an Oedipus complex. Given the link of theft between Mr. Kuryakin and Solo, Illya somewhat transfers his OC to Solo and that's what makes it so difficult for Illya to get along with Solo for so long and to trust him, but he does and then, when Illya has to go and kill Solo, but Solo gives Illya back his father's watch, that erases the transfer and then, to Illya, Solo is just Solo and not a stand-in for his absent father.
As was stated above, in socialist societies, there is no incentive to do well; so why, our socialist friend Illya reasons, would someone who was saved from prison work so hard to become the CIA's most "effective agent?" Good food and nice suits. Solo is incentivized through his love of the finer things in life (as we are told by Saunders) and such materialism Illya-the-socialist can't understand (like choosing dresses for Gabby at the Italian salon). Solo is also a man who is very proud, and being the CIA's best agent is an incredible bragging right for him that feeds his (substantial) ego. Now, what about the villain?
Rather like Severine (Berenice Marlohe) in Skyfall, Victoria seems to become "more natural" looking. The harsh black and white we see her wearing in her first scenes contrasts sharply with the last time we see her on the fishing boat, just before she dies. Victoria, as the villain, wears black and white because that communicates she is the ULTIMATE villain: there are no redeeming qualities about her whatsoever. The negative symbol of white is a corpse, because a body turns white when it is dead, so a person who lacks faith, purity and innocence is dead in their soul; a villain wearing black means they are dead to all the virtues and the requirements of the afterlife, which we know Victoria does believe in (she mentions her dead husband's soul), she just isn't preparing herself for it. If this seems like I am grafting my own religious beliefs onto a villain, please, recall, the iconic nature of the yellow poster at the top of the post, as well as the final shot of the film being in Rome, with the team surrounded by churches. In the middle image, Victoria and her husband both wear sunglasses, and we can interpret them being "under erasure" just as Solo with his glasses as he goes to the checkpoint at the Berlin Wall: whereas Solo "saw more" because of his blindness indicated by the glasses, because these are villains, and they lose, their glasses indicate they are, indeed, blind to the attack that is coming and the ends to which they will be pursued to be stopped. Now, let's discuss the bottom image, when Solo tells Victoria he killed her husband; did he? No, Solo didn't kill him, Illya did, so is Solo lying? No, he's not. As is true throughout the film, what happens in this scene links us to a different scene in the film: the bomb they send is going to "penetrate" the boat and erupt, so there is a strong sexual connotation here, as when Victoria showed up at Solo's hotel room, hoping to catch that he had broken into her atomic bomb vault, and they ended up having sex. That act of adultery and infidelity is when Solo "killed" her husband because Victoria wasn't faithful to him although she acts like she was in this final phone call. But on a different note, the scene Solo does describe does fit with Uncle Rudy did: beg and plead for his life and offer to turn anyone over for his own safety. This "substitution" between the Italian playboy and Nazi "doctor" reveals how Victoria, an English woman who should know better, "married" herself to the Nazi cause and became, what Sanders refers to as, "the real fanatic." Again, when Solo tells her about her husband being dead, she swears upon her husband's soul; if her husband has a soul, so does everyone else in the world, so why does she care so little about all the other souls she is planning on threatening with annihilation? Elitism. Like with most socialists, the rules don't apply to them: us "little people" don't have souls, only a certain elite do, and they can do whatever they want (we also saw this in The Kingsman the Secret Service). Lastly, Victoria being on the phone in this last scene, links her to being on the phone in the scene in the top image, when she bamboozled Solo and slipped him a mickey so he would pass out; in the last scene, Solo causes Victoria to loose consciousness of what is happening as they trace her call and launch the bomb at her boat, so Solo settles the score with her.
Why does a nice little girl like Victoria want a nuclear warhead? Endless power. No one could possibly defend themselves from a nuclear weapon at this point in history, so the whole world would be her hostage. What would her demands be for not blowing up parts of the world? What are her demands for not giving Nazis still living in South America the power to return to power and take over the world the way they started in World War II but couldn't finish? Money, luxury, slaves, that kind of thing, but there is a point Ritchie is making far more important than which is why the film doesn't go into her motivation for getting a bomb: she has employed former Nazis--not just the ones in "name only" like Gabby's father Dr. Teller--but the nastiest Nazi she could find, Uncle Rudy (the "other man" from the "other U.N.C.L.E., the choice people have today; do you want Solo and Illya, or do you want Uncle Rudy?) who was the Butcher of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse.
So, let's talk about Uncle Rudy.
This is an incredibly dramatic and disturbing scene and how it plays out, because it's meant to be. Again, Ritchie links this scene to earlier in the film when Solo approaches Illya's wrecked car and decides not to go and "finish him off" in case he didn't survive the wreck. Rudy starts out by giving Solo a "taste" of the torture that is to come, then prepares to finish him off; in-between, we get Uncle Rudy's autobiography; why? For at least two reasons. First, Ritchie wants to make it perfectly clear that people who become socialists/communists (because they are the same things, regardless of what they say about each other, and Ritchie verifies this when Sanders is listening to President John F Kennedy on the television in the safe house before talking to Solo) become communists, not from some higher ideal, not from a desire to help people or be enlightened, but because they themselves are mediocrities, just like Rudy, but they want to pass themselves off as being infinitely better than what they are; this turns them into someone who, in one way or another, will work to destroy humanity, individually and collectively, just like Rudy killing people. The second reason is to demonstrate that, either we can have The Man From UNCLE (Solo and Illya) or we can have Uncle Rudy (socialism and communism). On a different note, when Uncle Rudy shows Solo the page that will be reserved for a photograph in Rudy's archive of pain and torture, he promises Solo that it will be preserved in Kodachrome; ironically, Kodachrome, like the uranium enrichment process Dr. Teller devises in the film, suffered from a tedious process that eventually led to it being completely replaced. However, the point is, the brilliance of Kodachrome Uncle Rudy wants was invented by capitalists, not socialists, and George Eastman, who invented the Kodak company, was poor and just as average as Rudy was growing up, but Eastman wanted to do something positive for the world, unlike Rudy. Because of Eastman's invention of the Kodak film for cameraa, the world changed for everyone--not just the rich--and for the better; because of Rudy's torture inventions, the world changed for the worse, because then we could see how base and cruel humanity could treat other human beings. The "glitch" with the electric chair that figures so prominently in this scene and Uncle Rudy dying by one of his own inventions, is really like the Hand of God. Why does, when Solo and Illya see Rudy burning up in the chair, Solo says, "I left my jacket in there?" As Solo is pointing out, the good thing about the American government giving people like Solo himself a second chance--a part of himself is as bad as Rudy, because Solo was talking advantage of the World War to make a fortune in stolen art so there is a part of Solo just as bad as Rudy--but the bad thing about the American government is that sometimes it goes too far and someone even like Uncle Rudy could be given a second chance; Rudy being lit up and set on fire by his own invention, then, is like God intervening and deciding what will happen. We can't, however, overlook the terrible irony that happens in socialism/communism to those who support it: the very political machine they create often ends up being the instrument of their own destruction as well.  
If you noticed his sunglasses, he wears glasses that are both spectacles, and sunglasses, and by merely lifting the sunglasses up, he turns them into spectacles again. This is the key to understanding his character, that he sees things in "two different lights," and is able to alter how he looks at the world. Not having definite convictions about life, law or morality, he's ready and willing to offer up Victoria or anyone else to save his own skin later when Illya arrives and saves Solo. There is, however, a more disturbing trend we see in Uncle Rudy: food.
This isn't a great example, but it will at least allow me to point you in the direction of the circular painting within the gold, square frame behind Gabby as she dances in this scene. Later in the film, after Uncle Rudy has called her and she has agreed to meet him for lunch the next day, she calls Waverly's room and confirms the meeting, then the camera pulls back from her as she looks at herself in the mirror; what Gabby sees in herself is reflected by that painting in this image, a rendition of  The Judgement of Paris, but sexually reversed. In the scene when Gabby calls Waverly, British Intelligence is introduced as a "player" in the game, and Gabby has to "judge" between the three: Illya as Athena, the goddess of war (we see Illya playing chess in the image above, and he's always wanting to beat people up, like Count Lippi and friends), Solo as Aphrodite (he is always concerned about fine clothing and food and is always having sex) and Hera, symbolized by Waverly, who first took the "orphaned" Gabby under his wing and gave her instructions the way a mother might. Rather than Aphrodite winning this contest, as in the famous myth, it's Hera, because Gabby follows through with betraying Illya and Solo upon Waverly's behest. This is a "marginalia" device we have seen Ritchie use before as in Sherlock Holmes when Sir Thomas is in his fabulous copper bathtub: there is a painting of Saint Thomas Aquinas hanging on the wall of the room, and this is Ritchie's silent, marginalized commentary that, had Sir Thomas lived more like the Saint, rather than participating in ritualistic orgies, he wouldn't have found himself in the anti-Baptism state his bastard son trapped him in. Likewise, in The Man From UNCLE, we can see Ritchie making important comments in the margins of the film (in this case, the "writing on the wall," which is, ironically, the title of the theme song for the new James Bond film, Spectre). According to myth, Hera was actually more beautiful than Aphrodite, and she should have won the contest, but as the goddess of sexuality, Aphrodite revealed herself entirely to Paris and was also attended by the Graces to advance her cause. Now, we can go through the film and make arguments about why Gabby does or does not choose Solo or Illya, but just as Paris' judgment in favor of Aphrodite led to the eventual founding of Rome, where so much of the narrative takes place, so Gabby choosing Waverly leads to the founding of UNCLE: had Gabby gone with Solo or Illya, the Americans and Soviets would have edged the other out; with the British there, a concept of keeping "the team" together emerged, and that team wouldn't have existed without Gabby, and so in this way, because Waverly is the source of "birth" for UNCLE, he, again, can be linked metaphorically to Hera. Still within this scene, but on a different note, the song Gabby plays on the radio is Cry To Me by Solomon Burke; why is this important? Ritchie actually works the lyrics into the narrative: "Nothing can be sadder than a glass of wine alone," and later, the desk clerk knocks on Solo's door and brings him in a bottle of champagne, compliments of the hotel. "It's a fine bottle," Solo says, "it would be a shame to drink it alone," referring back to the song lyrics. Ritchie does this because it's a way of communicating something about Solo's character: he's lonely. Without the song playing earlier, we could rack Solo up to being just a womanizer--which he probably is--however, Ritchie softens that with Solo's invitation to the desk clerk being framed by the song Gabby plays on the radio.
There are three important instances of "food" involving Uncle Rudy: first, the caviar he eats while insulting Illya at the party, then the sugar cubes he stacks while talking to Gabby on the phone, and finally the green grape he peels the skin off when Gabby reveals Illya and Solo are intelligence agents. The caviar is easy to interpret, because we had seen the Countess telling Victoria she had been on a diet of caviar and champagne for three weeks; Rudy, then, eating the caviar is elitist of him, and his comment about their aristocratic blood, and Illya's being a "cart horse," reveals the aristocratic/elitist attitude most socialists have towards everyone. When Rudy stacks the sugar cubes, he does so in a pyramid, and we are reminded of how the ancient Egyptians enslaved the masses for their workforce (to build the pyramids) and paid them only with food, the same way the Soviets enslaved their own population enforced labor camps of the Gulag, like Mr. Kuryakin. Finally, the peeling off of the skin of the grape foreshadows what we will shortly see in Rudy's "memory book" and someone he skinned alive; why is this important? It demonstrates that the torture process effects every aspect of a person, and it can't be confined to the lab, it's going to reveal itself in everyday aspects of life, too.
What does Waverly mean, at Victoria's party, when Solo and himself are introduced, and Waverly says, "I noticed your trick with the tablecloth. Were you a waiter?" What is that supposed to mean? It means that Waverly knows how Solo took Gabby to the CIA safe house in West Germany, made her risotto with truffles and was then chewed out by Sanders because Gabby told Waverly everything. Waverly knows Solo is CIA, but Solo obviously does not know Waverly is MI6, so Waverly's comment truly throws off Solo who takes it for a insult. There is an interesting side note about Waverly contained in his files shown to the audience during the credits: not only was he an opium addict and alcoholic, but he was a second Earl of something-or-other but renounced the title. These two character notes, and that the tagline is "A higher class of hero," adds some commentary about what the upper-classes should be doing. Waverly's involvement with British Intelligence probably helped him overcome his substance addictions (even though we see him with what might be an opium pipe when they go to Instanbul). In comparing the Englishwoman Victoria  who married into the upper-classes and became a Nazi sympathizer, and Waverly who left the upper-classes to become a Nazi fighter, Ritchie seems to be signalling to all of the importance and inherent good of work, and choosing one's occupation to make the world a better place. I would also like to add that, previous to seeing the film, I made a prediction that I don't regret, which was that "Waverly" is a terrible name for a character because it suggests they are going to "waver" in their intentions and loyalty; since the film takes place in 1963, and that was the year the notorious Kim Philby was unmasked as a Soviet spy in MI6, I suspected that Waverly might, himself be unmasked to be a spy. Obviously, I was wrong about the Philby part, however, I think we can understand Waverly as "wavering" between being a lush and an Earl so choosing to be a member of MI6 instead. He obviously does a great job utilizing his talents and education for the good of his country, and the world, and I think Ritchie wants all of us to be aware of how much any one of us is capable of doing for humanity, or damage we are capable of doing to ourselves, if we fail to chose the proper path.
Because all of this is about people bringing back socialism: rich people employing Nazis to enslave the rest of the world for them is the message "under erasure" throughout The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie, if you noticed, gives quite a bit of time to a picture of Winston Churchill holding up the "V" for Victory sign, but today, it would stand for "Victoria" who, even though she is English and should know better, wants to enslave humanity. Which leads us to why we need Napoleon Solo.
This scene acts as a nod to Illya because Illya, we know, doesn't drink (he wouldn't drink vodka with Gabby) but everyone knows that Solo, a man of appetites, does drink, and that's why Victoria was confident he wouldn't refuse a drink. What's so sad is, Solo slips, "I've been here before and I hit my head," which is to say, a woman has slipped him a mickey in the past, and the last time it happened, he hit his head (he lost control of himself) and in "hurting himself," he probably really means he let someone get away and was accosted by Saunders for it. If you will, think back to Victoria's party, when Solo bumped into Waverly and stole his invitation; after Solo did that, he entered through the kitchen, and took a bite of something as he left; this act of eating links Solo to when Victoria comes to his hotel room and offers her a grape and she takes it: they have both entered into each other's "space" in order to advance their own ends  and the gesture of eating is meant to correlate the two scenes in the mind of the viewer so they can be compared. Let's talk about the color blue. Solo wears blue a lot in the film, and we know that blue is both the color of depression and the color of wisdom because the path of wisdom is that of sadness and misfortune, so Solo himself has experienced considerable sadness in life, but it has given him wisdom about how to handle himself, which is why he wears the blue suit and shirt. Because he failed to learn from his last mistake when he had a laced drink, he is on the blue couch, a significantly lighter shade of blue (less wisdom) than his suit; this is also why the pillow he rests his head upon is yellow, like the poster at the top of this post: he still retains his regal bearing, even though he has had a momentary set-back. The light blue, however, mirrors the light blue of Victoria's office chair, communicating that Victoria herself has had a share of sadness in life and obtained her own wisdom, however, it's not the kind of wisdom Solo has obtained; for the moment, she has the upper-hand. Solo laying upon his back, beneath Victoria, as she looks down upon him, is meant to foreshadow his death which Victoria has planned upon but which fails. It also, however, probably refers to what--or how--their sexual intercourse happened the night before: with Victoria on top directing events the way she wanted them to go. The next scene is Solo strapped into the electric chair; how does Illya know where to look for him? "I thought I found all your bugs," Solo tells him, and Illya responds, "But not the ones in your shoes." How did Illya know to put trackers in Solo's shoes? Again, our feet symbolize our will, and knowing that Solo is a man who likes to eat, drink, dress well and have lots of sex, Illya knew that such appetites would get Solo's will (his feet) into trouble. Remember when Solo takes Gabby to the safe house and gives her the risotto with truffles and she says, "It smells like feet!" "Expensive feet," he replies, and then  Sanders lectures him about they are not in the haberdasher business, and they don't pay him enough to put truffles in his risotto; Gabby and Sanders are linking the "feet" and appetites for expensive things together for us, the audience, in case we don't know it all ready. A clip that was cut from the film, but included in the trailer, is when Solo in his robe holds up a pair of woman's shoes and says, "Are these yours or mine?" meaning, "Was the idea for us to have sex your will or mine?" When Solo goes to Victoria's office, she has laced all of the drinks because she knows Solo will have a drink, regardless of which one it is. Now, earlier in the film, when Solo and Illya are trying to escape from the "satellite company" after having gone to look for the bomb, and Solo gets thrown off the boat and he climbs into that truck and helps himself to someone else's lunch, he lifts up his head and puts a large napkin in the neckline of his shirt to capture crumbs; as Solo raises his head, we see his throat completely bared and there is a tiny red spot on his neck, maybe a nick from shaving; we can be certain this was meant to be there because it would have been caught by the make up department if it wasn't. So, what do we make of this nick, on Solo's neck? Our throats/neck symbolizes what we are led by in life, like a collar and leash being put around us; the napkin Solo puts around his throat means he wants to eat up all the best things in life, and that nick means that he's cut himself on his appetites in the past (like when he tells Victoria, "I've been here before and I fell and hit my head") but he continues indulging rather than learning his lesson. Knowing how Solo enjoys life's finer things, Illya puts the tracker in Solo's shoes because he knows Solo's going to be led by his appetites into danger because Illya, as a communist, thinks all appetites are bad anyway; this is why we usually see Illya wearing a black turtleneck, to cover up his throat and the world's ability to leash him on some appetite that can be used against him, like vodka.
Why does Solo tell Victoria that only his mother calls him "Napoleon?" Because, in a very real sense, Victoria herself is his mother (artistically, not incestuously). Because there are criminals like Victoria, there are heroes like Solo who will "go to war" and "defend their country" just like Napoleon Bonaparte did for France. Victoria calling Solo "Napoleon" validates that she not only knows who he is, but that she knows he is at war with her. What about Illya and Solo towards the end of the film?
This scene proves what a good agent and all around guy Solo is. Earlier, when Solo warned Illya that he was going to be tested by being robbed to see if he fought back like a KGB agent, or didn't, Solo told Illya, "Take it like a pussy." In the scene above, when Solo allows himself to be punched by the security guard, Solo takes his own advice and takes it like a pussy. Why? Playing down his capabilities will make it easier for Victoria to trust him, he reasons, but he also wants to accentuate talents that will make her trust him even more, which is why he proceeds to rob her of her jewelry, so she will recognize that he is a thief like her. But is he a thief? Well, who else have we seen be called a thief lately? There is the little girl in The Book Thief, who really isn't a thief, and then there is Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, who is called a thief and charged with stealing back the Arkenstone from Smaug the dragon. Like Bilbo who is charged with stealing back something that was stolen from someone else, we can say the same of Solo: Dr. Teller, Gabby's father, was stolen from the US to build an atomic bomb that doesn't belong (through international law) to Victoria, so Solo is charged with stealing back what she stole. On a different note, it's in this scene that Solo pulls out a red, silky table cloth and uses it to wipe Victoria's cheek (of excess lipstick). Why? This identifies Victoria as a socialist because the nickname Solo gives to Illya is the "Red Peril," because red is the international color of socialism/communism, so Solo identifies her with the same ideology from which Illya comes from. So, why not keep the disc for America and use it to get ahead of the Russians? We'll discuss that below.
Solo has the disc and Illya is told to kill Solo if he has to in order to get it for Russia. Solo gives Illya his father's watch that had been stolen earlier in the film; why? The watch symbolizes history, but specifically, it symbolizes preserving the history of the Soviet Union; why? We have seen this in other films, for example, Ender's Game, when the forces symbolizing socialism are preserved by Ender, even though he was also the one who destroyed them (nearly). It's not just about a balance of power during the Cold War, it's about a continued balance of power against crony capitalism. Just because capitalism is supposed to act a certain way, doesn't mean that it does or will, and the threat of socialism cutting down capitalist corporations that abuse society is necessary for the protection of the world, and Solo returning Illya's watch to him symbolizes Solo's understanding and their mutual commitment to world preservation.
I haven't discussed Gabby too much, but this is a good time. As Gabby finally is brought face-to-face with her father, she's wearing an orange dress; why? If you will recall from another Guy Ritchie film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, our discussion on that included a mysterious orange scarf that Holmes got out of seeming nowhere but wore across his shoulders as he attempted to track down Moriarty at the opera, which was a mistake. The scarf acts as commentary to reveal how "the game is afoot" enlivens Holmes; even though us mere mortals would interpret tracking down international criminals as a horrible burden to bear, it is what gives Holmes his very life's breath (recall at the start of Sherlock Holmes, when he's in his room in the dark, begging Watson to find a problem that he can solve because his mind needs the work). The scarf, then, symbolizes that this "game" in which the stakes are so high, is exactly what Holmes lives for and the burden for which he was born to bear (yes, there should be some Christ illusions being made here; please see Blitzchess & Chaos: Sherlock Holmes a Game of Shadows for more). Similarly, we can deduce something of the same about Gabby in this scene. The orange dress communicates to the careful viewer that she is ready and up to playing this game and she knows what she has to do; she's not exactly a lamb being sent to the wolves; another detail about her dress, however, is that the back is open, meaning that she will be "exposed" and indeed, she is, most noticeably when she creates the diversion so her father can put the wrong lens into the bomb so it will be (effectively disabled) but Victoria sniffs out the trick and locks Gabby up. Further, please notice the green color of the helicopter: that shade of green is important throughout the film. We first see it in the public men's restroom when Solo and Illya fight each other; the dress Gabby wears to meet her Uncle Rudy at Victoria's party is that shade of green and white and then the helicopter. Why? Green symbolizes there is hope in new life, or that something is rotten, like molded food in the fridge. In these scenes, the characters are being asked to use their free will towards the greater good so the world can be saved; if they don't, the world will be lost because they choose to be selfish rather than work together.
In the final scene, as the disc burns and the three of them have successfully saved the world, they are told the team is going to be kept together for another assignment. This is rather the moment of triumph in the film and what the yellow film poster at the start of the post is all about: in the Eternal City of Rome, surrounded by the churches and the Vatican in the background means they have been crowned with a victory greater than earthly victory (and this is a slam against Victor(y)ia and her agenda) because they have managed to become a higher class of hero, that is, a hero of the highest class, the eternal class. And we all know, there are no classes in socialism....
Gabby, by the end, is no longer "Gabby," rather, Gabrielle, the arch-angel after which she was named, and we can say this because she wears a white dress, meaning she is alive with the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and she wears double-rimmed eyeglasses, suggesting that, like Solo at the start of the film, she's "seeing more" than just what there is to be seen. The scratches on her arm, however, reveal that her apotheosis has come at a personal price: our arms symbolize strength and the wounds reveal that Gabby has been weakened even while she's victorious, the victory has cost her a great deal: she has no family left now. The bracelet she wears acts like a cuff, a handcuff, specifically, and it could be that, since it's on the same arm with her wounds, she is going to feel handcuffed to her past, either because her father and Rudy were Nazis, because they were her only family that has now died, or because she lived in communist East Berlin for so long,... or because of something else entirely different. What is it that Gabby Teller "tells" us in the film? "I'm not going back over that Wall." She mentions this several times, and that's because she is telling us, the audience, that because she doesn't want to go back to East Berlin, we shouldn't want to go back to East Berlin (socialist/communist rule) either.  The burning of Teller's computer disc, there on the round table, so no one would have that knowledge to become the world's most powerful country, as well as Illya's father's watch are closely tied to the scene when Illya and Gabby are in Rome and they are walking around and Gabby asks Illya to tell her about the steps they are at: Illya begins by saying the stairs are attributed to an Italian architect, but it was really a Russian architect who did them. This is re-writing history, also known as brainwashing, and it was rampant throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc (my Russian history professor told us about going to the Hermitage, the Russian grand art museum, when it was first opened to the public--non-Russian citizens, that is--and she had a group of students there she was describing historical events to, and the Russian citizens were just as interested as the American students because they didn't know any of their country's real history, only what Stalin and others chose to feed them in the State written textbooks so they had to learn Russian history from an American). Anyway, Gabby's questioning of Illya about the son's and mother's ages reveals how deceptive Illya is being, but to Illya, he's being a Russian patriot and that is what matters most. In the satellite factory, when Illya mistakens the worker for the man who stole his father's watch, that mistake mirrors Illya's mistake about the stairs: the stairs aren't Russian, they are Italian, the watch isn't his, it's the other man's. Solo, because he is used to handling the sordid details of his own past and the harsh reality of the world, is able to recognize Illya's father's watch and the crook who stole it from him, so that is why Solo is able to discern the real watch (which is a symbol for history; to elaborate upon this point: as detailed above, Illya's father probably didn't actually embezzle Party funds, he was probably just sent to the Gulag as a part of the Purges, so that was a fake crime; Solo, however, was a real embezzler so he had committed real crimes and that is the discernment of reality which Solo has in his favor, unlike the illusions and fabricated truths the Soviet government expected their citizens to swallow [and we also read about in George Orwell's 1984]). Solo and Illya burning the disc means two things: first, in spite of "politics being what they are," the two agents have come to trust each other and rely on the other, which means they value one another, more so than the objective of their mission (to kill the other for the disc); secondly, they know that anyone who has the knowledge on the disc is not going to be able to keep it safe regardless of what security measures are taken to prevent it from being stolen, it will be stolen by a country/group that wants it for their own evil ends, and no country should have that kind of power in the world. 
In conclusion, I haven't even begun to touch upon everything that deserves analysis in the film, that would require numerous posts, however, I hope this small introduction will alert you to some of the devices and strategies employed to deepen our understanding of the film's message and the characters used to convey that message.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
I felt compelled to take a moment and mention this outfit Victoria wears when she goes to Solo's hotel room. Again, we could interpret her vest as the color black, but I am more confident that using it as a means of erasure will prove more rewarding. The blouse she wears is quite feminine with its ruffles and stylized sleeves; the vest she wears (and Solo himself wears vests, so she's juxtaposing herself against him in this masculine attire) is made of  what looks like crocodile skin. If we employ erasure, then the masculine vest puts the feminine blouse under erasure, suggesting that she isn't feminine at all, but merely uses it as a disguise for her more masculine aggression. Victoria isn't feminine then, she is quite masculine. Why does she wear so many jewels? Well, it's probably the same as a page from Uncle Rudi's scrapbook he shows Solo: Rudi was very ordinary, and that ordinariness, or mediocrity, caused him to become bitter about not having a (real) skill or (real) talent so, like all mediocrities, he became a socialist and joined the Party and took out his mental illness on innocent people. Victoria, likewise, was probably a mediocrity and poor, but rose to wealth in her marriage and due to her insecurities, she wears lots of jewels, replacing genuine self-confidence and esteem with materialism. Like Rudi, she has every intention of making innocent people pay for her mental unbalance and appetite for revenge.