CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, "Man of Steel") and KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer, "The Lone Ranger") are on opposite sides of the Cold War but when an unknown global terrorist organization threatens nuclear proliferation, the two are paired up to find their way in via East German Chop Shop girl Gaby (Alicia Vikander, "Ex Machina"), the daughter of the German scientist the group has snatched, in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
Cowriter (with Lionel Wigram, "Sherlock Holmes")/director Guy Ritchie ("Snatch") began his career with Indie British gangster films whose kinetic energy gave them a definitive stamp. Then he paired up with then-wife Madonna for an ill-advised remake of "Swept Away" and things haven't been the same since. His modern takes on period Holmes were mixed bags which didn't bode well for his taking on of an iconic 60's television series, but although this origin story franchise kick-off is sure to be nit-picked by fans of the show, Ritchie's reined in his hyperactive style and delivered a smooth, enjoyable bit of summer escapism.
We meet the suave Solo heading through Checkpoint Charlie on his mission to engage Gaby, whom we meet when she rolls out from beneath the car she's repairing. As the two prepare to escape East Berlin, they're set upon by a Russian agent with almost superhuman abilities. Napoleon and Ilya's competitive relationship has begun. When Napoleon's handler Sanders (Jared Harris, TV's 'Mad Men,' "Lincoln"), who recruited the former black market thief, brings the two together, they dub each other 'Cowboy' and 'Peril,' their first tussle over choosing Gaby's new designer wardrobe (the capped, turtlenecked Ilya wins out over slick Solo's stuffier effort).
Ritchie's "U.N.C.L.E" is a bit like a Bond buddy movie with its retro-chic globe-trotting and series of shiny vehicles (including a speedboat and submarine) backgrounding its bumpy bromance. The dark haired Solo is paired with the villainous blond Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki, 2013's "The Great Gatsby"), as Solo concedes to blond Ilya's obvious attraction to the brunette Gaby, who has secrets of her own (their always interrupted courtship is a running joke). The plot is a paper thin ticking clock race that leads to an Italian car race (where the underutilized Hugh Grant's Waverly makes his first appearance), then the glorious Bay of Naples where Cavill enjoys a great bit taking a culinary timeout as Ilya attempts to outrace boating bad guys. The film's climax finally feels like something ripped out of the series, just in time for to close with Waverly announcing the titular acronym (T.H.R.U.S.H. is presumably left for future installments).
Cavill's winking Bond imitation is great fun and his and the cartoonishly Russian accented Hammer's banter is amusing, a constant game of affectionate oneupmanship. Vickander's on an incredible streak in a wide variety of films this year and her apparent inclusion as a new regular created for the movie is a welcome one. Debicki looks the 60's femme fatale although doesn't have much of a chance to develop a character. The film also stars "Inglourious Basterds'" Sylvester Groth and Christian Berkel as Gaby's Uncle Rudi and dad Udo. As Victoria's husband Alexander, Luca Calvani ("When in Rome") is entirely unnecessary.
Ritchie's film boasts a beautiful production from locations to costume. Daniel Pemberton's ("The Counselor") score is terrific, utilizing influences from the era from harpsichord to Spanish flamenco.
Robin did not see this film.
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