East Berlin, 1963. The CIA’s top-man, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), is on the prowl for a mechanic, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). Gaby is the daughter of a Nazi engineer, who defected during WWII. Solo hopes to use Gaby in order to find her father, who has recently fallen in with a mysterious organization composed of Nazis. During their extraction from East Berlin to West, they encounter the relentless Russian agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). After a brief car chase, Solo and Gaby cross the border and escape to safety. Shortly after the mission, Solo is brought in and informed that the USA has agreed to cooperate with the USSR to bring down this dangerous organization and he is to be partnered with, you guessed it, Kuryakin. This launches a globe-hopping adventure filled with femme fatales, espionage, gadgets, and betrayal.
This film is the latest project that was written and directed by Guy Ritchie, following his two Sherlock Holmes movies. U.N.C.L.E.‘s story of Nazis, nuclear bombs, and car chases may be a cliche mix of classic spy tropes, but the dialogue and chemistry between the characters more than makes up for it. Cavill and Hammer nail their roles as international super-spies. Cavill goes heavy on the charm as the womanizing Napoleon Solo, flexing the chops that nearly snagged him the role of James Bond. Hammer shines as the psychotic Russian with a heart, the perfect counterpart to Cavill’s classic suave spy. Vikander does well as the mechanic who is dropped into the world of espionage and brings an enjoyable amount of love and humor into the plot. This chemistry between this trio makes for an excellent ensemble performance, each playing off the other. The only issue with the lead performances were the accents. U.N.C.L.E. features a Swede playing a German, an American playing a Russian, and a Brit playing an American. I was assuming that Vikander was going for a German accent, but it just came out as British. Cavill’s American accent was solid, but sounded nearly strained. Luckily, Hammer was pretty consistent in his Russian accent, but the others were strange enough to occasionally bring the viewer out of the film.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. delivers on all of the quick-witted dialogue and humor that you’re accustomed to seeing from Guy Ritchie. It also features outstanding cinematography and a slick, cool atmosphere. Visually, U.N.C.L.E. is a treat to watch. The scenes are wonderfully framed, using light and shadow to accent the atmosphere. It also utilizes split screen shots to quickly maneuver through action sequences; this style was fun the first time, but later became so frantic that you end up missing all of the action. The sets and scenery are all perfect throwbacks to spy thrillers: island fortresses, “futuristic” offices, and nuclear refineries. Each scene captured that uniquely cool 60’s style. The atmosphere is completed by the soundtrack, highlighting the thrills and action with smooth jazz, fast bongos, and French Pop. Not only does the soundtrack tie the film together, it also stands well on its own. Any fans of soundtracks can look forward to this album.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a fast-paced, enjoyable romp through the Cold War. Sure, it may be a little light on original plot, but the technical execution and charismatic leading trio overshadow any holes the plot forgot to fill. Despite clocking in at nearly two hours, U.N.C.L.E. flies by because it’s simply a fun movie. With many recent spy movies such as A Most Wanted Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the new James Bond series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a much needed contrast to the realism of espionage. Oozing with charm and impossibly cool, the film effortlessly inspires smiles and laughs. Featuring a very open ending, I’m looking forward to the possibility of seeing another adventure from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.