Secret spy agents have never been so cheeky!
Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a post-WWII antiquities smuggler who gets recruited by the CIA to help catch the baddies and put himself in dangerous positions that no pencil-pusher would ever even dream of being caught in. His latest mission, however, may test him to his utter limits. An East German mechanic by the name of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), has a father who was a former rocket scientist for the Nazis and may be currently developing a nuclear bomb for a bunch of shady fascists. Because the mission itself is so complex, Solo’s boss (Jared Harris) assigns him to work with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer); somebody Solo already has a bit of a rivalry with as is. This leads to constant tension and bragging between the two where they sometimes find that they are at odds with one another, rather than with the enemy. But while Solo is busy fighting off whatever pretty honey that comes his way, Kuryakin is trying his hardest to not show off any sort of emotional feelings for anyone, especially not for Gaby, who has now been assigned to use cover as his fiancee. Will all of these personal problems get in the way of the mission? Or will Kuryakin, Solo and Gaby combine their forces and beat the villains, so that all us citizens can live a happy, healthy, and care-free life?
Love him, hate him, don’t care for him, or hell, don’t even know who he is other than the dude who married Madonna, Guy Ritchie’s got style. And no, I’m not talking about the way he dresses or acts in real life – I mean the movies that he makes. While some may get tired and bored of his energetic and frenetic style, to me, Ritchie feels like the kind of director we’re very lucky to have. None of his movies (even his really terrible ones), can be called “horrid”, “stupid”, and “annoying”, but they can’t be called “dull”. This is because Ritchie refuses to let a movie of his get made without some form of color or fun thrown into the proceedings.
And if anything, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the perfect example of this.
What makes me most happy about U.N.C.L.E. is that it’s the kind of action-thriller that likes to have fun. What was that word? “Fun”? In a current action-thriller, you say? Well, funny that you may ask because yes, U.N.C.L.E. is indeed a fun movie that doesn’t try to frown or grim too much; more or less, it’s concerned with kicking-ass, stunts, guns, babes, booze, spy-gadgets, fancy cars, and most of all, humor.
In today’s day and age where Bond seems to be losing his smirk as each and every movie goes by, or where every hero’s trying to be the next Bourne, U.N.C.L.E.‘s characters all have lovely personalities, seem to have some bit of fun in their systems and, most importantly, have a good joke to end a sentence on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all jokes and play for Ritchie’s characters here, however, even when they do get serious and melodramatic, it isn’t at the high cost of the movie where all of the exciting and fun times are over and now we have to get all stern and cold.
Ritchie doesn’t care for those kinds of thrillers and it’s way U.N.C.L.E. works as well as it does.
Some of this has to do with the fact that the setting (post-WWII, Cold War-era) just screams white-blooded nostalgia right at you, but a good portion has to do with the fact that Ritchie seems interested in this story all around. After all, it’s his fault that a TV show from the 60’s is being brought to the screen where half of the audience who watched that original show may not be alive, or even remember it, so if he screws this up, it’s off with his head. But Ritchie seems absolutely enthused to be giving these locations, these characters, and this decade the light of day and it’s hard to not get caught up in all the good vibes going around.
After all, it’s getting to the end of the summer, so it’s better to get out with a happy, healthy bang, rather than a down-beat, depressed and down-trodden whimper like some of these blockbusters have been this summer.
But perhaps the best thing about U.N.C.L.E., isn’t that it’s filled with plenty of cheeky humor, or impressive set-pieces, but is that it makes you want to see more of these characters in whatever the next adventure it is that they’re getting involved with. While Henry Cavill may be seen as Superman for quite some time, he’s very charming here as Napoleon Solo – who is basically Bond, except that he’s got a perfect chin, hair, body, and cheeks that makes you wonder if Ritchie too thinks this guy’s handsome as hell, too. This gives me hope that whatever side-projects Cavill decides to do away from being Kal-El, that he chooses to take ones that test him as an actor a bit, but also show what his strengths are as an actor.
Same goes for Armie Hammer who, after the Social Network, hasn’t had the most lovely career. None of that really has to do with him, because even the crappy movies he participated in, he was at least fine in them, but there is something to be said for a person when they just become a one-hit wonder and you wonder whether or not they’ve actually got some sort of acting-skill in their soul, or are they just another good-looking. In Hammer’s case, he’s definitely the later, but here, he shows that he’s got skills as an actor and is at least able to make this stiff character funny and engaging to watch.
Of course, the whole joke surrounding him is that he’s all too serious and emotionless for his own good, but what Hammer does well, is that he shows that there’s more to this character than just what’s presented on the surface. This is what makes the later-portion of this movie actually interesting, because Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry between one another where it seems like their characters would be perfect as partners in life, as well as in work. It should be noted that Vikander is great here, too, and is another female character we get this summer that seems like she’s there as nothing else but just a damsel-in-distress, but soon shows her true colors and turns out to be smarter than her male counterparts.
But I’ll save my praise for Vikander for a later-time, considering she’s got plenty of more movies coming around the bend.
Consensus: Stylish, colorful, and whimsical, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just an entertaining action-thriller, but one that signals why Guy Ritchie is one of the better directors we have working today; he just needs to be given better material to work with.
8 / 10