Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a handsome, debonair CIA agent, making a name for himself in the early 1960s. So is Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), albeit for the KGB. Natural, Cold War enemies, the two must work together with Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) to infiltrate a terrorist organization hoping to develop nuclear weapons.
I say, “It only out-Bonds Bond if you prefer silly Bond.”
There’s a lot of chatter about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. online and in the media. Everyone is comparing it to a Bond film, but a Bond of the ‘60s. The movie naturally reminds us of this by way of it taking place in the ‘60s and being about flashy super spies. This musn’t have been only the intention of director Guy Ritchie, but of everyone working on the film, cinematographer to editor. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just giving us characters in the ‘60s, the film itself feels like it was made in the ‘60s.
Some might argue that jump cuts, montage, music video style and too-cool-for-school performances are the hallmarks of Guy Ritchie movies and they’d be right. But Sherlock Holmes doesn’t view the same as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie, perhaps, belongs in the ‘60s. U.N.C.L.E. is comfortable there, no need for an update.
The story itself needn’t concern you. Some baddies are gonna kill us all if these agents don’t overcome their differences and learn to trust each other. The characters are what matter here and they are fairly rich, yet also cliché. Solo is Superman, quite literally. It’s difficult to look at Henry Cavill and not see at least Clark Kent. He delivers all his lines like he’s learned English by watching movies from the ‘30s. It’s weird, but after a while it wins you over because Solo is a pompous ass, for whom life is a stage.
Armie Hammer’s KGB agent is pretty quiet, but with a quick temper. Hammer is good enough for the role, his hands shaking with theatrical rage, his Russian accent sounding very much like when you make it yourself: “There is problem with generator.”
U.N.C.L.E. is not a movie to fret over performances. It’s more of a pretty, flashing amusement ride where nobody matters. Especially Gaby Teller, she despite being the impetus for the team being built in the first place, is merely led from scene to scene. Other than being the daughter of a nuclear scientist, she has no purpose in the tale, beyond sexual tension. But then again, it is the ‘60s.
I think The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would fail completely if it wasn’t so cool.
It suckers you. It suckered me.
— I give the Man from U.N.C.L.E. 3.5 future sunglasses out of 5.