The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant,
Guy Richie’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” feels like a variety of projects from past and present blended and baked into one golden bubbly film. Based on the 60’s television show, Richie returns as director and writer for the first time since “herlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. The comradery in this spy film and his ‘Holmes’ series are very similar, but this one gets a bit more cheeky. Richie clearly understands how good the chemistry is between Cavill and Hammer, mostly skipping the action scenes, so we can get back to the snarky and well written banter between our leads. The plot around these characters is good enough, but it’s the characters themselves that are most enthralling.
One is a high ranking KGB soldier, build like a tank, the other is a reformed criminal turned into one of America’s best secret agents. They are forced to work together, after trying to kill each other, tasked to recover a nuclear bomb which has fallen in the hands of a dangerous criminal organization based in Italy. Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) must calm his aggressive Russian temperament and pretend to be the architectural fiancée of their main lead Gaby Teller (Vikander), whose father is building the bomb. Napoleon Solo (Cavill) will use his thievery skills to bug, break, and sneak into various locations, yet it’s his talent with his hands that often keep the threesome moving forward.
One of the funniest films of the year if you like intelligent, cheeky and sarcastic humor.
It’s ironic that British actor Cavill (“Man of Steel”) is playing the American agent while Texan actor Hammer (“The Lone Ranger”) sports the Russian accent, coincidentally it mirrors the original casting of the show. Both Hammer and Cavill do some of their best work as Richie seems to cater the script toward their comedic strengths. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is witty yes, but it’s also one of the funniest films of the year if you like intelligent, cheeky and sarcastic humor. It’s the type of humor that doesn’t require an audible laugh, which makes it more enjoyable not hearing butter fingers cackle two rows up (or maybe they just didn’t get the humor). There are sexual undertones and innuendo flying like bullets across the screen, mostly between Illya and Solo who can’t decide if they want to kill each other or admire one another’s physicality.
If anyone remembers the 1998 film “The Avengers” starring Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, also based on a 60’s era TV Show or countless other bygone era series you will understand what “The Man of U.N.C.L.E.” is reaching for. Richie might have been the obvious choice to direct, following the commercial success of the Sherlock Holmes films (which I found too reliant on action scenes and not enough on acting). Through the entire film, which is labeled an action film, most of the violence or “action” is displayed in split screen montage, in favor of quickly returning to the dialogue and banter. With everything Richie gets right on screen, it’s Vikander (“Ex Machina”, “Testament of Youth”) that steals the show. Sustaining her “it” girl status of 2015, Vikander will be a revelation for mainstream audiences who perhaps missed her in the smaller films. Richie has created a near perfect summer film that is far more entertaining and unique than “Mission Impossible”, smarter than the comic book adaptations and the first mainstream film of the year actually worthy of a sequel.
Clever, Cheeky, Sexy and Stylish. U.N.C.L.E. has all the right ingredients.