The Man From U.N.CL.E.
The Man From U.N.CL.E.
(Warner Bros., 2015)
There are actor’s movies, and there are director’s movies. Mission Impossible 5 was an actor’s movie, starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Is a director’s movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. Who? Exactly.
Never mind them or why you would want to see a baking soda in a movie. The name you want to remember is Guy Ritchie, who directed Sherlock Holmes.
Do you remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E from television? No, you probably don’t, unless you were a young girl who had a poster of David McCallum (who played Ilya Kuryaken in the TV series) on the wall. No matter. Ilya is a Russian spy, who teams up with American agent Napoleon Solo. Their challenge is to bring down a plot to create a rogue atomic bomb. (The ‘60s were great; you didn’t have to make up new ways to destroy the world.)
Guy Ritchie has put together treat for you. Get ready for fun, because first of all, Napoleon Solo and Ilya hate each other. I mean, one is American, the other Russian and this is the Cold War. Add to this is the fact that Ilya has psychopathic anger issues and Solo is, well, a smirking smartass. By the way, both are flawlessly played by Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) as Solo and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as Ilya.
Of course, they’re not Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law from Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, which is why the movie is getting a ho-hum from other critics. Big mistake. U.N.C.L.E is cool and sharp, with a real script that stays light but builds up tension. It moves so fast with camera cuts, ‘60s split screens and tight dialogue that viewers have to struggle to keep up. But don’t worry; the story goes back once in a while and explains what you just saw.
Ritchie is such a good director that he can entertain you just with his style. At one point, I turned to my wife and said, “Do you realize that nothing is going on here? They’re just hanging out.” Of course, there was plenty going on. The scene was a car race for rich people, with jewelry, fashion, drinks, and conversation going on in a huge venue in the middle of the racetrack. Our spies were undercover, but it was ridiculous, as they managed to call attention to themselves constantly. Ilya was having one of his anger meltdowns over some of the snobby guests. Meanwhile Solo was charming the ladies and being his annoying self, especially to the villainess in charge of creating the rogue atomic bomb.
Later, Ilya is fighting for his life in a speedboat chase while Solo, thrown from the boat, finds wine and a picnic dinner onshore to feast on. Some partner! As the plot piles on, Solo and Ilya somehow have to find a way to work together or the villains will win out. There are islands and submarines, British agents from MI-6, and even former Nazis sprinkled in, but director Ritchie guides you through the movie with a deft sleight of hand that is almost magical.
Best of all, you don’t have to know anything about the ‘60s or the TV series to appreciate the plot. So just sit back and enjoy this sharp, humorous, breathtaking ride through Europe as we bust through the Berlin Wall and motorcycle through the countryside around Rome.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is rated PG-13 for a scene of humorous torture. Small children will be bored and should stay home. Enjoy!