3 out of 5 stars (average)
The Man From U.N.C.L.E had a lot going against it for me. It was an August action-comedy with two actors with mixed resumes and a trailer that looked like it could be either a funny romp or a generic bore that a studio released because they could. However, my biggest worry was that the film was based on a TV show from the 60’s that I hadn’t heard of until I discovered the movie’s existence. TV show adaptations often lead to very mixed results (See the Charlie’s Angels movies for proof) that feel like studio cash-grabs on an old property with current stars in the main roles. Knowing this, I sat down in my theater, saw the title credits roll, and was greeted to a very fun, funny action romp that, while nowhere near a classic, will satisfy those looking for well-shot action and understated humor.
The plot is simple: In the 1960’s American spy Napoleon Solo (Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill having a jolly good time) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer pulling off a great accent) must work together to find and destroy a nuclear warhead. They will do this with the help of the intelligent Gaby (Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina providing what may be the summer’s best leading lady performance). However, the trio (or at least the guys in it) must contend with the villainess Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) on their mission to prevent nuclear disaster, as well as letting their own prejudices kill each other.
I was surprised by this film. Director Guy Ritchie (most famous for the Sherlock Holmes flicks and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) crafts well-shot action sequences that are fun to watch and never go on too long. Ritchie has a knack for action, using slow-motion effectively so that you can see everything, but knowing when to pull back and let everything go crazy at appropriate times.
However, the action isn’t the main attraction here. That honor goes to shockingly good character chemistry and understated comedy. I thought that the pairing of Cavill and Hammer was an odd one, as neither had proven their might as comedic leads yet. Imagine my glee as the two worked off of each other in the same way that pinballs bounced in a pinball machine. Their delivery is nearly perfect, and their verbal fights are fun to the ears. I would like to see these two work together again, as they are an unexpectedly well-matched duo.
Alicia Vikander also pulls a hat trick, being the most useful and intelligent female lead I’ve seen this year. She is not there for the male demographic to stare at (but they can anyway). Vikander has a presence onscreen that will hopefully give her a long career.
I was quite sad to see that our theater consisted mainly of middle-aged individuals. I’m not trying to ageist, but I find it odd that a movie starring heartthrob Henry Cavill and hottie Alicia Vikander would have an audience completely free of hormonally-charged teenagers. I’m not saying that the middle-aged are hormonally dead, but I think the casting of these individuals was a ploy to get members of my generation to come into the theater, not theirs. Hopefully, this will not be like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a Chris Pine vehicle based on a famous literary character from the 90’s in which 50-year-olds made up half of its opening weekend. This movie will please my generation: it has humor, action, and hot guys. What more could you want at 20?
The last item of mention is the comedy. This film could go into a few different genres: Buddy film, Spy action, and Comedy. The movie immediately has a light tone that lets you know that it’s going to be a fun ride. The humor ranges from innuendo to flat-out wit, made all the funnier by the actor’s chemistry mentioned above. The bottom line is this: If you want to laugh, then this flick should satisfy your needs.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a fun, suave spy caper with great chemistry, humor, and memorable action. It’s a great film for those who want to kick back, relax, and see Henry Cavill prove he can do something other than brood in the Supes costume.
Rated PG-13 for Action Violence, Suggestive Content, and Partial Nudity