The Man From U.N.C.L.E Review

Guy Ritchie, the man who brought you Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrel and Snatch,  is back with this 60s spy adventure – The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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Following the recent Hollywood trend of revisiting old franchises,  The Man From U.N.C.L.E is the cinematic reboot of a popular 1960s television show with the same name, but smartly requires no previous knowledge of the show.

Set in the Cold War period, American secret agent Napoleon Solo (Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill) must team up with Russian spy Illya Kuryakin (The Social Network’s Armie Hammer) to prevent World War Three from happening .

The film starts off with Solo being tasked to retrieve Gabby Teller (Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander) the daughter of a former Nazi scientist, from East Berlin so she can cooperate with the CIA. He finds her  but unfortunately for him Kuryakin has been given the same orders by the KGB, which means he has to hunt down Solo and Gabby through the streets of Berlin. The fast and furious cat-and-mouse chase scene which follows sets the overall tone for the film as it’s a mixture of carefully crafted tension and clever comedic quick quips which deliver an exhilarating opening ten minutes.

After interrupting each other’s missions, both Solo and Kuryakin are devastated to learn that they must work together to locate Gabby’s missing father in Rome. The reluctant partnership between Solo and Kuraykin is a joy to watch as The Man From U.N.C.L.E is at its best whenever Cavill and Hammer share the screen. While Solo is the laid back secret agent who thinks on his feet, Kuryakin is the polar opposite as he’s always extremely focused at the task at hand. The pair constantly bicker with one another with their arguments ranging from who’s the better spy to who knows more about women’s fashion

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The chemistry between Cavill and Hammer is excellent as along with Vikander the trio of leads all put in worthy performances.

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Cavill, who very nearly played James Bond before Daniel Craig was cast, shines as the effortlessly smooth and suave Solo. Trading in his Superman cape for dapper tailored three-piece suits, Cavill’s Solo will definitely remind you of Bond as he’s equally skilled at womanising as he is at espionage.

Cavill as Napoleon Solo
Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Hammer is also great in the role of Kuryakin, the towering giant of a man with a very short temper. The straight-faced Hammer could have easily been outshone by the charismatic Cavill, but he plays his determined Terminator-like Kuryakin with enough charm which makes him just as likeable as Solo. He also gives one of the best slaps you’ll ever see in cinema history.

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Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin

Not to be outdone by the boys, the beautiful Alicia Vikander excels as Gabby, who can hold her own when she needs to and isn’t just inserted into the film to be the typical damsel in distress. Vikander doesn’t need to rely on her EXTREMELY good looks (can you tell that I have a bit of a thing for her) as she injects lots of personality into her role of Gabby – particularly in the scene where she drunkenly dances and wrestles with Kurayakin.

Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller
Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller

All three leads work very well with the witty script which is heavily littered with humour – there’s the unfriendly banter between Solo and Kuryakin, the risqué innuendos and double entendres and the odd bits of slapstick comedy. The funniest scene has to be where Solo and Kuryakin are deciding whether to kill or torture someone for more information but things don’t go according to plan.

Guy Ritchie does a wonderful job of recreating the 60s vibe as the music, the costumes and the general feel of the film all make you feel as if you’re in 1963, where the film takes place.

While there are many things that Ritchie does very well, there are some aspects he could have improved on to make a better film. First off, considering The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a spy flick, there’s not as much action as you’d expect from something from the genre. The first act has the fantastic chase scene, the second act has a brilliant tension-filled break-in sequence, but the action in the third and final act, which generally should be the most memorable, is quite disappointing. There’s a mass shoot out which is weirdly edited into comic book-like panels and feels like a bit of a cop-out to filming a decent gunfight.

Also, we’re told that fate of the world is at stake, but you never really feel like anything’s on the line. Maybe that’s partly because the film’s villain, Victoria Vinciguerra (played by Elizabeth Debicki) isn’t really given enough screen time to put anything at stake. Although she’s very good in her few number of scenes, she feels like she’s just being evil for the sake of being evil as her motives aren’t really explained.

Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra
Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra

Hugh Grant also makes a brief appearance and for the first time in you’re life you’ll think “I wish he was in it a bit more”.

Still despite a couple of flaws, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is almost two hours of pure unadulterated fun. This slick and stylish spy adventure will probably not blow you away, but it will almost definitely entertain you.  It scores a:

7/10

Check out a five minute trailer here:

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