Synopsis: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. 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 Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is 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. (c) Warner Bros
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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Uncle in this case stands for United Network Command Law Enforcement) is a super stylized adaptation to the groovy and popular 1960’s spy television series of the same name. From the exotic locations to the polished set design plus those fancy costumes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is massively entertaining and consistently so. If that was its only task as a movie, it succeeded immensely. However, there is more to nostalgically-infused, action-adventure than how it looks. Story, plot, acting, pacing all matter, too. With a light weight, but sometimes hard to follow plot including double crosses galore, the story wasn’t nearly as well constructed as the visuals on screen. This isn’t a bad thing, but worth noting in order to manage expectations.
To my surprise, the strongest element to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was something I was dreading: the direction of Guy Ritchie. Thankfully, he shows restraint and maturity in filmmaking. He can be all over the place far too often as a director. I was relieved it wasn’t as bombastic as Ritchie’s over-the-top and tiresome Sherlock Holmes “re-imagined” adaptations (which makes the old fashioned Mr. Holmes currently in theaters even more refreshing). For someone who lost my trust with those lame movies, Guy Ritchie seems to have more control of this production than his previous few movies. Both overwhelmingly sleek and somewhat campy, the tone in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is rather cheeky and energetic in a low key manner.
My favorite moment embodies what I enjoyed the most about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Without spoiling a thing, there is a great scene involving the slow boil of tension with a significant comedic payoff involving a truck and a boat. The use of music and overall scene development of were pitch perfect and provided a satisfying resolution for the absurd situation. That’s all I want to say about that without ruining a hilarious moment. A close second was a very thrilling mountain side chase through the woods which kept me on the edge of my seat. Likewise the acting Henry Cavill was charming and rather commanding in this movie. He needs more roles like this, please. Armie Hammer wasn’t as good as Cavill nor delivered as strong of a screen presence. I wondered what he was doing here. I had a hard time finding his Russian accent to be believable, but I’m not an Eastern European linguist.
I initially wanted to compare The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to Kingsman: The Secret Service before watching the former. I even remember seeing the preview before Kingsman: The Secret Service which explains my frame of reference. It is not fair, valid, or necessary to compare these two movies beyond the fact that both are spy movies with a British backdrop. That’s it. I hope others won’t go into The Man from U.N.C.L.E. expecting Kingsman: The Secret Service but American audiences are conditioned like me to make that connection. When the summer movie season seems to throw many remakes, sequels, and adaptations, this felt like counter programming for sophisticated adults who grew up with the show. There is also a lot of subtitles in a splashy summer movie which is getting a very wide release. I hope this risk pays off because The Man from U.N.C.L.E. deserves to be a sleeper hit.
A fun old-school spy movie
- TMB rates The Man from U.N.C.L.E - 7.5/107.5/10