The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Review
East meets West in this reboot of the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
An unlikely duo must put aside their differences and work together to stop the threat of another world war.This year marks the return of agents Solo and Kuryakin in Guy Richie’s cinematic adaptation of the 60s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Originally starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as agents for the United Network Command for Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E), Richie’s reboot stars Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin and starts from the very beginning, before U.N.C.L.E has even been formed. Solo was once a big time thief but having been captured decided to avoid a lengthly prison sentence and instead was recruited by the C.I.A who put his many talents and skills toward a much more productive use. Working undercover in Berlin we are introduced to Solo as he embarks on a mission to aid german car mechanic, Gaby (Alicia Vikander), across the Berlin wall.During their escape they are confronted by KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, and roughly 8 minutes into the film we are presented with an elegant and graceful car chase as Solo and Gaby navigate their way through the streets of Berlin trying to evade Kuryakin. The following day it’s soon made clear after a quick bathroom brawl that Solo and Kuryakin are destined to be partners, as instructed by their superiors, and must work together to locate Gaby’s nuclear scientist father and prevent World War Three from happening. Having gotten off on the wrong foot, Solo and Kuryakin must try their darnedest to put aside their differences and find a suitable working balance in order to complete their mission. However, this proves rather difficult as each of them feels they are far superior to the other and so starts a macho dance of one-upmanship to beat the other at the spy game.
With Gaby reluctantly agreeing to help and not having much choice in the matter, the three of them go undercover and head for Rome where they must locate Gaby’s father who has gotten mixed up with Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and her rich husband Alexander (Luca Calvani) who both have a penchant for fascist ideals and world domination. Victoria is the somewhat emotionless villainess of the film, who parades around in fabulously glamorous outfits dripping with expensive jewellery and speaks in an almost monotone which instead of coming across as boring or bland, actually works in her favour, painting her as an evil femme fatale. The only down side is that Debicki’s screen time is all too brief and thus we never really get to see the true ruthlessness of Victoria come to light. In contrast to Victoria, Gaby is softer around the edges and plays a stubborn yet strong-willed character who, despite first impressions, has her own agenda.
Donning a wide array of tailored three piece suits Solo is very much the suave and charismatic secret agent and British actor Cavill fits the bill perfectly with his chiseled jaw line and perfectly styled hair. Complete with a dry sense of humour and an air of arrogance, Cavill does well at playing Napoleon Solo who is perhaps more concerned with himself than saving the world. In almost complete contrast Kuryakin is the straight laced, tight lipped and mostly controlled counterpart. American actor Hammer plays the Russian agent and does so rather well with a convincing accent. Watching Cavill and Hammer on screen as the two agents battling for the top spot is fun and at times humorous to watch. There is a rather amusing scene in which the two agents pit their fashion knowledge against each other in an effort to style Gaby as the undercover fiancé of Kuryakin. Despite Gaby being a partial love interest for Kuryakin, the main romance on screen is definitely between the two agents who end up putting aside their differences for the greater good but are never really sure if they can trust one another.
Amazing costumes, sleek cinematography and a good soundtrack - but does all that make up for a lack of storyline?
Hugh Grant makes a cameo appearance playing a slightly different type of character as Alexander Waverly, but still maintains an air of humour and I should think if there are to be future films in the franchise, Grant will be utilised a bit more. Jared Harris plays Solo’s superior in the C.I.A, Sanders, and like Grant didn’t really get much opportunity on screen to really develop the character in any depth.
It’s evident that Richie has tried to remain true to the 60s style of filming revelling in multiple split screens and zooming in and out on the action at speed. However, at times it felt like Richie got a bit carried away and maybe a bit self-indulgent as some scenes felt like déjà vu (muting the speech of a scene only to play it again moments later with the speech) and done just because he wanted to do something slightly different or artsy. That being said, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is predominantly wonderfully shot without that typical Hollywood glow all over it; feeling like it was shot back in the 60s with the sound track matching the action on screen with every beat (excluding a scene with a lorry). The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is, I would say, more about the visual aspect rather than content as it does feel like the storyline takes a back seat at times as the action teeters off during the middle and makes a brief comeback towards the end.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a light hearted spy film which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Set in the 60s like the original TV series the film continues in the same jovial and slightly camp vein. No previous knowledge of the TV series is required to understand Richie’s film as it starts from the very beginning. It’s a stylish homage to the spy genre of a yesteryear with it’s sleek cinematography but doesn’t quite deliver the same impact in terms of storyline - more style over substance.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.