Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
What director, writer, Guy Ritchie did for Sherlock Holmes he has now done for the 1960s TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. That is to say he updates it for a modern audience while still showing the charms of the era. With Sherlock Holmes (2009, and SH: A Game of Shadows, 2011) Ritchie put the quirky, hyper active, Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. He gave us a new Sherlock who was funnier and more relatable while still demonstrating the skills and immense intellect of the odd original.
In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. we are treated to a prequel to the TV series. We get to learn the back stories of Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), Illiya Kuryakin, (Armie Hammer) and even Waverly (Hugh Grant) the head of U.N.C.L.E.. This also allow the filmmakers plenty of room in which to build a franchise. And after seeing the first installment I am eager for the next one.
As a reminder, U.N.C.L.E. the TV show, ran from 1964 to 1968 as one of many movies and TV shows that cashed in on the building popularity of the spy genre that started with the successful James Bond films. On TV there was The Saint, I Spy and Mission Impossible, to name a few. And to be frank, even though I liked the TV U.N.C.L.E, it was not the best of the lot. It had an odd combination of taking itself seriously while still being a little outrageous.
But this film does the opposite. It does not take itself seriously at all while at the same time does not build outrageous scenarios that are unbelievable. If fact the plot is a standard Cold War 1960s, someone bad is getting a nuclear bomb and someone has to save the world story. In today’s world this is a wholly believable story. The twist to this story (thus the prequel) is that Solo is CIA and Illia is KGB and they must work together, and they don’t like that.
Cavill plays Solo as a glib, sophisticated, rascal and thief. Someone who knows he is the smartest and best looking man in the room. If he wasn’t so charming you might hate him. Hammer plays Illiya as too-serious, slightly-psychotic and mildly repressed agent and killer. Even though you might not think it from these descriptions, Solo and Illiya dialogs are hilarious. Their constant need to play one-upmanship games keeps you laughing. Their arguing about women’s fashion and accessories has the audience laughing so much we couldn’t hear all of the dialog.
This was also one of those action films where the pacing was energetic without being disorienting. There is a battle sequence that uses multiple split screens and moving frames to pack a lot of action into a short time frame without making you nauseous.
So, if you want to have a fun re-visit to the 1960s spy genre or if you are a Guy Ritchie fan, or just want two hours of laughs and action, then head out to see this The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as soon as possible. Oh, and since there will be sequels you will want to pay attentions to the closing credits.