The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Can Superman Suit Up as Super Spy?
What do you get when you cross a Cold War era TV series with a modern Superman, Lone Ranger, female cyborg, and beloved British director?
You get: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” the newest Guy Ritchie film starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander. Based on the popular 1960s spy series of the same name, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is another film in the long line of Hollywood reboots. Fortunately, this film feels fresh despite its stale roots and brings a great level of fun to the saturated market of spy films.
U.N.C.L.E., which stands for, United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, commingled American bad boy CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) with motherland loving KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) in what turns out to be as much of a buddy comedy as it does a spy-action film. Though the film has plenty of nods toward beloved Bond films, which is not surprising since Ian Fleming is said to have contributed to the conception of the 60s series, U.N.C.L.E. takes itself less seriously, likening it more to a “Bad Boys” or “Rush Hour.”
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4
If you are a fan of the cinematic flavor of any other Guy Ritchie film, such as “Snatch”, “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, and “Sherlock Holmes”, then “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” will certainly suit your silver screen palate. Ritchie holds true to his fast-paced style that has come to thrive with the average ADHD American mind of today. He uses the camera to deliberately give us a campy 1960s TV feel with his cut scenes, montages, and quick facial close-ups. In fact, two of the scenes in the movie that are the most fun and get the biggest audience laughs are done solely by making full use of the juxtaposed foreground/background shot.
This is a style that has continued to divide Ritchie fans into factions. The former being fans of his early British work and the latter knowing him for making the more recent ephemeral “Holmes” films that rely a little too heavily on this style. Regardless of which side you take, any viewer is unable to deny that what Ritchie creates is a realistic replica of the tawdry Cold War era spy flick that holds true to its roots while continuing to entertain the modern moviegoer.
Entertainment Value – 4
“The Man from UNCLE” certainly excels in the entertainment category. Viewers are treated less by the quality of acting and screenwriting and more from the action and pacing. We are introduced to the film’s main characters quite early using a unique chase scene, and though the character development seems forced, we remain eager to see how they will play off of each other throughout the film.
Henry Cavill stars as the lead American spy, Napolean Solo. He continues to carry the American accent well, but plays a flat superficial version of a James Bond. In fact, the best comparison is probably to FX’s Sterling Mallory Archer. Like any gifted spy he drinks, womanizes, and in this case, he tends to worry more about fashion sense than saving the world. To Cavill’s credit this seemed to occur less from his acting ability and more from the way the character was written for him.
On the other hand, Armie Hammer, who struggles a bit with the Russian accent, brings a surprising depth to Illya Kuryakin. Hammer, who was considered for “The Man of Steel” role that was won by Cavill, as well as the Batman role that was won out by Affleck, has struggled with previous casting, but shines through bringing likability to the Russian spy struggling with his temper and a bit of psychosis.
The biggest acting highlight comes in the form of Alicia Vikander, best known for “Ex-Machina,” as Gaby. Like her costars she has clichéd dialogue laden with double entendres, but when she is not in a scene, her combination of cute and charismatic, keeps us wishing she were.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” TV series found success in the 1960s because it integrated characters from opposite sides of the Cold War. This film, 50+ years later, must contend with the years of reused buddy comedy/action concept but nonetheless it succeeds in entertaining using this same formula.
Rewatchability – 3
This film fits nicely into the rewatchability category. Any setting that is divided by the Berlin Wall will continue to draw interest from viewers. This is by no means a classic film, but it deals with classic issues presented in a common way that are appealing to watch casually. The film is fun enough that if your friends scroll through it on Netflix you will not object to their playing it even if it’s your second time through, but it is cut from a common enough comedy/action cloth that it is not enough to have you running off to buy the DVD or lining up again at the theater.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a fun summer flick. Immediately after viewing I was annoyed by the obnoxious musical score, forced character development, and cliché plot, but as the dust settled and I compared it to many of the other movie options out there, I came to the conclusion that U.N.C.L.E. is not that bad of an acronym and not that bad of a movie either. It is worth seeing just for the combination of the pretty faces dancing through a choppy Guy Ritchie tango. The inevitable sequels however, might be a dance I have to sit out.