Article by: Nick DiGiacomo
Guy Ritchie takes on the spy genre with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a remake of the classic television series from the ’60s. The film starts off the action immediately with an exciting and well shot chase scene, where Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Immortals) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) are escaping East Berlin being chased by Armie Hammer (The Social Network, The Lone Ranger). After delving into a bit of Henry Cavill’s backstory (a thief who was then recruited by the CIA to escape a prison sentence), the film delves right into the main plot. In the film, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are forced to team up to stop a nuclear threat with the help of Vikander, whose uncle is the creator of this bomb. Of course, both agents have their own personal agendas for their countries (this is the Cold War era); Guy Ritchie does a great job of making the audience feel the tension between the two agents, and leaves them wondering if/when one is going to betray the other.
U.N.C.L.E. has everything you expect from Guy Ritchie. It’s got humor, wit, action, and great character development. Alicia Vikander was fantastic as the German mechanic Henry Cavill’s character liberates from East Berlin at the start of the film. Vikander was able to bring to life several different aspects of the character, whether it be through her intelligence, her sexiness, or her humor. Armie Hammer was an interesting choice as a brute Russian KGB agent forced to work with Cavill. He is seen more as the antagonist of the film, but Hammer brings heart to the role and humanizes the character, particularly in his relationship with Vikander. And it was refreshing to see Cavill as the lead, playing a brilliant, smooth talking CIA operative. Cavill, some may know, was a frontrunner to play James Bond before Daniel Craig stepped in, so it was intriguing to see him in a similar type of role, especially since his recent fims haven’t given him much to work with other than being angry and angsty.
Through all the positives, the film still has a few issues. The main antagonist of the film, played by Elizabeth Debicki, was a bit of a one-note “I’m a super-rich evil villain” cliche. There wasn’t much motivation behind her character, and was seemingly bad for the sake of being bad. The film also revealed Cavill’s thief backstory early in the film – him simply working with the CIA to avoid going to prison, of course setting him up for a moral quandary later in the film, but we never get to see enough of this. The most we get is some disagreement with Hammer about tactics. Added to this, there were a couple pacing and editing issues in the third act and a lack of action around the climax of the film (instead wrapped up in a quick montage). This could’ve been played out better.
All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an entertaining ’60s-styled spy movie. It has a lot of elements of the great older Bond films, while still feeling fresh and exciting. Although not without its problems, the film is one that I would highly recommend movie-goers to see and, while unlikely, would love to see a sequel for.
Overall Rating: 7/10