The opening sequence of the film sets a perfect backdrop for the entire film to play out — the archive footage of the tension between America and Russia during the Cold War from the sixties, the dangerous border between East and West Germany, and of course, the amazing jazz and R&B sounds of that era. Five minutes into the film, it was clear that the sets are done immaculately; they were scenic yet classy at the same time. Props to director Guy Ritchie who helmed the blockbuster Sherlock Holmes as well as its sequel; who proves that period dramas are bound to be sensational under his wing.
Based on the Emmy award-winning ’60s TV series of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. features Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin. Both are the best agents in the field, but hail from the CIA and KGB respectively, thus they’re unfortunate nemeses due to their countries’ brinksmanship. While on different sides, their missions are the same — to locate and extract mechanic Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of Hitler’s favourite rocket scientist, and whom they suspect is in cahoots with a criminal organisation planning to use nuclear weapons to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Realising that this would be detrimental to both sides, their bosses force them to work together. The suave Solo is now paired up with tough-guy Kuryakin, alongside the unconventional female hero Gaby on a combined mission in order to stop said bomb from going off (and of course, acquire what’s left for their respectful agencies).
Like any spy movie, the familiar disloyalties, double-crossing, lethal bombs, car chases, conniving villains and reluctant participants were not amiss in this plot. Propelling you right into the sixties, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. impresses with its out-of-this-world costume changes (specifically, many pieces of Italian suit tailored to perfection), and hops around the iconic architecture of Europe as the trio set off for an adventure… I mean, to stop a nuclear bomb from starting another war between the great nations.
As the agents dive deeper into the mystery of the missing scientist, the action is paired with a befitting amount of tongue-in-cheek wit and humour that’s sure to entertain the viewers. Hammer delivers his Russian accent to perfection, and Cavill pretty much blows us away with his entire get-up, cleanly shaved and all. As they go back and forth with their mutual hate, their intriguing chemistry delivers the laughs in the theatre.
As the sole female character in the trio, Vikander was a great match for the boys with her wit and guile. She stands in balance between the two lads, and at times even overshadows their chemistry. But, another character worth mentioning was the calculative Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), she’s the epitome of the perfect villain — beauty, brains, and ambition behind the organisation that took Hitler’s favourite rocket scientist.
Eventually, Guy Ritchie’s style overtakes the substance of the movie — his choice of casting, locations, costumes, screenplay, scenes, scores and not forgetting all the tiny details such as the choice of fonts, editing, colouring, etc. all pack a finessed punch. But the true highlight of this film was its scoring. Reminiscent of the spy music from its time, the music of the film just keeps on giving. Backed with an orchestra at every height of tension and action, the music kicks in and spurs on chills and/or laughter. As the film strolls into oblivion, so does the music — it dives deeper and deeper into delivering emotions with its soulful band of instruments.
The charm of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was its ability to entertain and yet still stay thrilling to the core. It may not be exactly original plot-wise but it was yet another reminder we do miss the spy comedies of the late ’80s. But for now, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is what we’ll get and we’re glad it’s served on a golden platter.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E is now showing in theatres.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy
Running time: 117 minutes