Assistant Section Editor
Every now and then, a song comes on the radio with shallow, meaningless lyrics but a beat so catchy that you cannot help but love it; “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is the cinematic equivalent to that.
Director Guy Richie brings his signature slick, fast-paced style to the 60’s super spy genre with great results. The movie follows the tenuous alliance between a CIA and KGB agent as they work to stop a nuclear Nazi threat. The spies serve as a metaphor for the uneasy partnership between America and Russia during World War II and the ensuing standoff of the Cold War, but the story largely takes a backseat to the style and characters in this film.
The movie’s greatest appeal lies in its unique style. Richie uses more than just costumes and set pieces to transport audiences back to the 60’s. He utilizes the cinematography and music cues in order to produce an experience that is simultaneously fresh and retro. The action sequences are consistently captivating, especially those that blend humor with the violence.
The characters are also enjoyable despite being mostly one-dimensional. Henry Cavill, best known as Superman from “Man of Steel,” anchors the film as American Napoleon Solo. He manages to avoid any gratuitous shirtless scenes and instead relies solely on his acting ability, and flawlessly dimpled chin, to portray a suave, womanizing thief turned CIA operative. He is mostly successful in this attempt and is greatly aided by the fact that the script never really pushes him to show much acting range. Countering Cavill’s stoic, James Bond-esque Solo is Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, the hotheaded KGB agent. Hammer shows a little bit more range than Cavill but mostly sticks to a one-note performance. The two leads have chemistry and the one-upmanship between them is a highlight of the film.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is one of the more fun movie going experiences of the summer thanks to its likeable protagonists and retro style. It’s good, not great, but a definite must see for both cinephiles who can appreciate Richie’s gorgeous love letter to the 60’s espionage thriller genre as well as people who are just looking for a fun two hour escape from the real world. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.