After World War II, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) stayed in Europe, making money selling art stolen by the Germans. He became fluent in several languages and quite adept at being a thief. When he was captured by the CIA, they realized putting him in jail would be a waste of his talents. In exchange for a jail sentence, they made Solo work for them.
One mission has Solo retrieving Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) from East Germany, in hopes she can help them find her father, who knows the process for creating a nuclear weapon. Solo, against his wishes, is paired with the KGB’s top agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). The duo must find Gaby’s father before Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) can complete her weapon, which she plans to sell to the highest bidder.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on a television series of the same name that aired in the 1960s that I have heard of, but never seen.
I really liked Henry Cavill in this movie. He’s funny, charming, and has a way with the ladies. His wit is very subtle, but very effective. (I wish he could bring some of this personality to the Man of Steel movies. It might make me like them that much more.) Armie Hammer’s Illya is pretty much the polar opposite. He isn’t smooth with women. He has trouble controlling his temper. But, he has been highly trained as the KGB’s top agent, and is an efficient machine who stops at nothing to complete his missions. Hammer’s Russian accent is believable and doesn’t become a distracting gimmick. The two have good chemistry and play off each other well. At one point, though, I couldn’t help but picture them as Rocky and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
Alicia Vikander’s Gaby can hold her own against the men. Alicia, herself, has no problem keeping up with the guys in this film, either. She is strong and more than capable of getting the job done. Some of the romantic chemistry may feel a little awkward, but given the story, it is acceptable. Hugh Grant has a relatively small part in the film, which is a shame. I could have used more Hugh. However, in the sure to be coming sequel (which I would gladly watch), I’m guessing he will be feature a little more.
The action in the film is relatively low-key. And the special effects are almost non-existent. And it works. There is just enough action to keep the film moving and give it a spy movie film. But if you are expecting a James Bond type film, you may be disappointed. The movie focuses more on the subtleties of the story and the relationships of the characters. It is peppered with smart humor that keeps the tone light. It evokes well-timed chuckles, rather than laugh out loud moments.
Director Guy Ritchie doesn’t give us anything flashy or over the top. The film is actually quite tame by today’s standards. Instead, Ritchie made a fun, campy spy movie that has the same look and feel I expect the original series had. Perhaps my opinion is based on the fact that this movie I saw after the disaster that was The Fantastic Four, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a refreshing, entertaining film. (Then again, just about any movie would look good on the heels of that mess.) Either way, it is worth a trip to the theater to see.