Going into Guy Ritchie’s cinematic reboot of the classic TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., we were a little bit trepidatious – other than the (rather extended) snippets we’d seen from the pre-release trailers, we had absolutely no idea what to expect from the film, given that we’re a little bit too young to remember the series when it was originally broadcast. That said, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a fantastic crime caper from the brainchild behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Opening with a daring rescue behind the Iron Curtain, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Immortals) shines in the titular role as Napoleon Solo, a con-man turned suave secret agent for the American government. When an international threat is issued, Solo and Armie Hammer’s (The Lone Ranger) Illya, a KGB operative, have to work together to stop the creation and detonation of a nuclear bomb.
From the outset, the action is fast-paced and engaging and the film’s backdrop against the sights and sounds of the sixties results in a bold, colourful and engaging piece which will guarantee to have you laughing and – for audience members who remember the era – looking back with nostalgia. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is clearly a Guy Richie film, peppered with stylised action sequences and fantastic split-screen shots (think 24!) which keep you hooked throughout.
From a cast perspective, there’s not many A-List names on display here, outside of Cavill and the occasional scene featuring Hugh Grant, but it doesn’t really matter, as the female leads in Alicia Vikander’s (Ex Machina) Gaby and Elizabeth Debicki’s (The Great Gatsby) villainous Victoria more than make up for any greatly impressive previous cinematic experiences with the sass and likability both bring to their respective roles in spades. The interaction between both Cavill and Hammer, as well as Hammer and Vikander’s, characters is spot on, and it’s great to see their relationships develop on-screen as the film progresses.
Marking his first big appearance since 2013’s Man of Steel and his upcoming reprisal as Superman in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Cavill’s Solo cuts a sharp figure, and it’s very easy to see where those rumours of him taking over the role of James Bond when Daniel Craig hangs up the Walther have come from. His American accent is very believable and, as we’ve mentioned previously, it’s a joy to watch the relationship between Solo and Illya develop, with their respective methods often leading the unlikely team to come to blows. The Man From U.N.C.L.E., then, is undoubtedly a buddy movie, but in the unlikeliest sense – Cavill and Hammer don’t overplay their roles, and Cavill in particular often reminded this reviewer of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, delivering the serious moments when necessary but without taking himself too seriously; you really can’t help but like Napoleon Solo.
For action fans, don’t let the comic elements of this film deter you – there’s plenty for you to enjoy, too. The film’s final act is a great, completely over the top, sequence which fits the tone of the film down to a tee and which’ll have you on the edge of your seat as Solo and Illya give chase to the film’s villains by both motorbike and… umm… dune buggy.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is absolutely not the best film we’ve ever seen, but it is a very enjoyable and very funny film which we would absolutely recommend you see. It’s colourful and poppy in the same vein as the Ocean’s series, packed full of great action set pieces and acting prowess from its leads, as well as benefitting from the experience of a well-respected and accomplished director. We won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say that (hopefully) our wish for more will be granted – we just hope it’s sooner, rather than later.