Warner Bros. 116 Minutes PG-13
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an example of style over substance. We liked seeing the kitschy special effects used in this throwback to the 60’s TV Cold War Spy series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. It’s also a picturesque travelogue. This is a prequel telling how the “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement or U.N.C.L.E came to be. It looks great, but pales in comparison to the action flicks of today.
Guy Richie says he had fun going back in time with this genre, writing (with Lionel Wigram) as well as Directing this caper. It’s ironic that this is his made a film using only digital cameras, yet he created a decidedly analog feel. His use of multiple screens to show different angles of the same scene is old school.
There were a lot of actors considered for the part of Napoleon Solo and who were dying to work with Richie (Sherlock Holmes Series, Swept Away, RocknRolla). Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) became the Bond-like character with chiseled features, almost TOO good looking. Armie Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, a “cold, calculating” KGB spy who goes by the book. Hammer’s Russian accent bothered us at first, but we got used to it.
Hugh Grant plays Waverly, Head of British Intelligence and orders the unlikely pair to work together. Their mission is straight out of the Cold War Playbook. Track down the brilliant scientist building The Doomsday Nuclear Bomb for an evil criminal organization. The scientist’s daughter, Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) is their only clue to finding and preventing Armageddon. It’s a game of who’s your friend and who’s your enemy now. They keep switching sides which Richie uses to try and keep you guessing.
Tom Cruise was originally cast as Solo, but opted out to do Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Although Cavill first read for the part of Kuryakin, Richie had him switch parts. He liked the contrast between the tall dark handsome Cavill as Solo, and the blond Hammer as the Russian operative. Both leads did most of their own stunts and were impressed with Richie’s directing and writing style.
Vikander says Richie would come to the set every day with more ideas and tell the actors to go off script and come up with something new! All agreed they liked the creative collaboration. She was also impressed with Cavill, not only for his polished look, natural wit and SWAG, but for how hard he worked. She says Hammer brought his guitar to the set and constantly made her laugh.
The look of the film is elegant and detailed. Some of the wardrobe is vintage. And even parts from the original TV set were used in at least one scene. Cavill, as Solo, looks super polished. Hammer describes Cavill as the total package; handsome, tall and muscular. Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) plays the gorgeous blond villain in retro clothes, hair and makeup. Wigram says they picked her because she reminded of a young Catherine Deneuve. She also describes Richie as a director “alive with ideas.” Richie says he was just trying to “capture the spirit” of the original movie.
Is this worth your bucks? If you liked or remember “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, you’ll like this film. There isn’t that much to the plot. It’s polished and pretty, but moves at a 60’s pace. It’s slower than what audiences expect from today’s action movies. And it’s a little uneven. The music incorporating the theme from the TV series is great. It’s not as tense or exciting as some of the other summer adventure flicks. This flash back looks good but towards the end you may make you want to cry “Uncle.” That said, it’s enjoyable enough for a walk down memory lane.