Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram and directed by Ritchie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a genre throwback to the bygone Bond era of spy films- to a time when characters like Bond made the most sense, the height of the Cold War. However this film, based on the popular television show of the same name airing in the 1960’s, has a twist on the suave American spy trope, pairing Henry Cavill’s C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo with Armie Hammer’s Russian KGB muscle Illya Kuryakin to stop a threat greater than they pose to each other. Which is, of course, Nazis.
The plot is simple enough, former Nazi scientists were not only scooped up by American intelligence after the war, but also by more sinister forces that seek an atomic bomb and the plans to create thousands more. This puts iron curtain enemies like the CIA and the KGB into a prickly situation, working together to thwart a greater evil for the greater good. The movie unfolds with a great opening action set-piece that showcases both Armie Hammer’s Illya and Cavill’s Solo quite well while providing a snappy sense of movement, Guy Ritchie’s sense of style shines in this scene and others like it later on. Which brings us to the potential negatives of the film. The characters and the plot are fairly serviceable but they don’t outright stun or awe. The performances, not to forget Alicia Vikander’s charming role as Gabby Teller the mechanic in West Berlin who gets wrapped up in these international spy-games, and the style of the direction are what makes this movie work. Particularly entertaining is the chemistry between the two leads Hammer and Cavill, if they had more time to flesh out the characters that they inhabit here these two could become more than they are, but I had fun with what we did get.
I suppose it all depends on your level of expectation going into a film like this. I was looking for an entertaining spy genre flick. One with action, humor, thrills, maybe even a bit of wit and charm thrown in for good measure and for the most part, that’s what I got. This film worked for me. I’d even be ready to throw down some cold hard cash to see a sequel if another one came along. Who knows if that will happen, but I would gladly welcome another adventure with these characters.
Final Score: 2 spies, a couple nazis, and 1 atomic bomb