The Man From U.N.C.L.E. August 25, 2015
The spy movie never gets old. Set during the height of the Cold War, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. follows the exploits of Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), enemy agents forced to team up after the daughter of a Nazi scientist (Alicia Vikander) turns up as the only lead in a nuclear warhead investigation. As the clock ticks, Ilya and the girl, Gaby, pose as an engaged couple, Napoleon as a charming playboy seeking information from the alleged leader of the terrorist plot, widowed entrepreneur Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). But the mission, at first appearing to be fairly straightforward, turns increasingly complicated as masquerades dissolve and emotions become tangled.
The success of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is largely indebted to Guy Ritchie, who directs and co-writes with a tongue-in-cheek electricity perfect for this sort of film. It’s an ode to 1960s capers all neatly packaged in the most expensive of clothes and locales — split-screens (The Thomas Crown Affair), lithe femmes (Thunderball), sexy danger (Charade), cool cars (The Italian Job), and breathless humor (How to Steal a Million) all make appearances, all delivered with near seamless panache. And it’s a relief that Ritchie’s candy colored lovability is backed up by a terrific cast — Cavill is agreeably all-American, Hammer nails his Russian accent (and stereotypical Russian humorlessness), Vikander is luminous, and Debicki, who dazzled in 2013’s forgettable The Great Gatsby, soars as the film’s slinky villainess.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is old-fashioned entertainment made anew, and though I haven’t had the chance to bask in the glory of the TV series of the same name (I’ve preferred to lose myself in Get Smart and The Avengers anyway), I feel more tempted than ever. This is, for the most part, sizzling escapism, perhaps ten minutes too long but certainly full of regality. A find. B+