The Good, the Bad, and the Extremely Attractive: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Review

I grew up on a steady diet of classic film and television. I think my mother preferred Gilligan’s Island to SpongeBob, so TV Land was on as much as anything at our house. While the original U.N.C.L.E. series was not a staple of our home, my father was certainly inclined to the 60’s spy genre, and both parents had an affinity for Cold War films, sparked no doubt by their military contracts in the 1980’s. Then again, who doesn’t love a good USA vs. USSR movie?

Walking in to the theatre, I brought somewhat high expectations, but also a certain nostalgia factor.

Set in the early 60’s, the film starts with establishing the not overly complicated plot of an evil organization, with former Nazi ties, has built a nuclear bomb to sell to the highest bidder. This emergency situation calls for America and Russia to put a pause on the whole Cold War thing and send in their best two agents to handle the situation.

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See what I mean?! Its Matt Bomer + 007.

The American, Napoleon Solo, is played by the ever dapper Henry Cavill. He has been essentially blackmailed into the CIA after being arrested for art theft. Ever the American way, the government decided to release him from prison and use his set of skills to their advantage. Imaging if someone combined James Bond with Neal Caffery from White Collar. While I would not call him a particularly three dimensional character, I don’t think that was the point. Cavill nails the ultra-suave spy type to a tee. I found myself even impressed by his speech patterns.

From behind the Iron Curtain comes Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, a giant, yet refined looking, KGB agent. He is quickly established as terrifyingly strong, chasing after a car in the opening sequence, and ripping the trunk lid off after attempting to stop said car by shear brute force. Solo first refers to Kuryakin as an “it.” Many have already noted that Hammer’s Russian accent is nothing to write home about, but it didn’t bother me. His dry humor and likability brought the character to life in a very pleasant way.

This movie is filled with cliches. There is no other way around it. But the fact is, it does all of them very well. The two unlikely partners argue all the time, but still manage to be an excellent team. There are “surprise” double crosses, crazy Nazis, car chases, and spy gadgets. But it works because that’s exactly what they were trying to do. The entire movie is a very stylized homage to the genre of spy thriller, and what it may lack in originality, it makes up for in pure entertainment.

The one major deviant from its 60’s counterparts would be the leading female charater, Gabby Teller. Alicia Vikander’s character was a pleasant skew from the lackluster women that were so often only written to be rescued by the hero. To be fair, she does get rescued, but all three of the leads need rescuing at one point or another, so I took no issue. She was smart, independent, and easily went toe to to with the two leading men. In fact, she went toe to to with just about everyone in this film. Her unique skills are found in cars, both as a mechanic and rather impressive driver. This is of course in addition to a variety of other spy related things I won’t list in an effort to not give too much away.

The film was beautiful to watch. It was colorful, sleek, and stylish. The cast and cinematography were really quite pleasant to look at, and I know if they ever make another, I will be more than happy to go see it.

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t try something new, they worked to make the best of the classic formula. Some may call that playing it safe, but regardless, I had fun. And isn’t that what going to the movies is about?

Overall Rating: B

See the trailer here:

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