The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Genre: Action

Director: Guy Ritchie

Screenplay: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Hugh Grant

Running Length: 116 minutes

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. centers on CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Ilyas Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). Forced to put aside hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Review: Say what you will about this remake (yes, another 60’s TV franchise has made the transition), but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is undeniably a feast for the eyes, and dripping with style to boot. Those looking for a traditional action blockbuster need look no further than the recent Mission: Impossible film, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. resembles its leads – a charming (if shallow) diversion, and really fun to watch despite its flaws.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. boasts a fantastic look – the attention to period detail is meticulous, and the illusion is sometimes so complete that it almost feels like a film that was actually made in the 60s, and not shot in 2015. It is also accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, employed to great effect by Guy, and even sneaks in snippets of the original TV theme song. The leads are also very easy on the eye, but both leading men are quite flat, particularly Henry Cavill. The women fare much better, and Armie Hammer’s performance is somewhat mitigated by his strong sexual chemistry with Alicia Vikander’s Gaby, who more than holds her own when paired against both men. The most memorable and delightful performance, however, goes to Elizabeth Debicki’s Victoria Vinciguerra, who slinks around the screen, almost purring with evil and menace.

Although positioned as an action blockbuster, Guy Ritchie does not display a good handle on the larger action setpieces. In fact, the climactic chase sequence feels kind of watered down and is about as unmemorable as it can get. Where Guy excels, however, are the more casual scenes, and most audiences will walk away with a deeper impression of Napoleon Solo snacking in a truck or the two men bickering over what fashions work best for undercover spies. There’s a lot of humour to be found in the movie, and this definitely makes the slightly over-long film a much more entertaining affair.

While this is ostensibly an origins story of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it’s safe to say that not many viewers will even be familiar with the original TV series, so the film can pretty much stand on its own merits. Although the film does set up the backstory of the protagonists and leaves the door open for a sequel, the fact that Guy Ritchie has chosen to “date” this first film with a 1960s aesthetic means that a franchise is somewhat unlikely (though not impossible – see Austin Powers). I, for one, would welcome the possibility of a sequel, if only to see if Iilyas and Gaby would finally get down and dirty.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)