Late 2013 I read an article on Guy Richie’s new project, taking on the 1960’s TV Series “The Man From Uncle” and I remember feeling rather excited. Having seen other 50’s and 60’s shows reimagined and revitalized, Hawaii 5-0, Mission Impossible for contemporary audiences and having seen how Guy Ritchie adapted Sherlock Holmes for a stem-punk action generation I was intrigued to see how he would approach the world of cold war espionage and make it relevant to a modern audience.
As a child growing up in the 80’s a lot of my TV habits were dictated by my parents and grandparents and they all loved TV dramas like Chips, Dukes of Hazard, The Saint, Mission impossible and The Man From Uncle which were on re-runs throughout my childhood. I vague memories of watching Robert Vaughn and David McCallum strut around opulent sets looking rather dapper in a similar style to how I remember my grandfather dressing. It was in a way dated to me even then but in a colourful, vibrant good way.
Fast forward to 2015 and I’m sitting in the movie theatre excitedly waiting to see how Richie’s vision would unfold. So it begins with a rather dapper Henry Cavill walking towards the check point at the Berlin Wall in 1960’s Germany. Instantly I love the idea of keeping the time period in line with the TV Show and the themes of that era which are still relatable today.
|The Man from U.N.C.L.E|
Henry Cavill is Napoleon Solo, a smooth sophisticated gentleman spy, coerced in to the CIA because of his not so honest dealings in the post war antiquities market. Cavill has a confident swagger showing how comfortable he is in the role. His accent a mix of generalised American (Neither East or West coast generic) but with a hint of social mobility to assist in his assimilation in to the upper echelons where he can pull off his scams with wit and charm that almost makes you feel like you would want to be conned by him.
He crosses the wall in search of mechanic Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander)who the CIA hopes will help track down her father a scientist currently working with Victoria ( Elizabeth Debick) and Alexander Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani), with whom her Uncle is also associated. Despite her lack of information on her father’s whereabouts she agrees to help in order to get out of Berlin before she is killed.
Chased by KGB Agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) who is athletic, driven and borders on psychotic, due to deep seated emotional issues from his upbringing. He surprises Solo, who is reluctant to kill him as he attempts to stop there car by grabbing on to the boot only to writhe the boot from the car.
Once across the Berlin Wall Solo and Kuryakin are brought together by their respective bosses and after a brief fight are tasked to work together in order to infiltrate the Vinciguerra’s inner circle.
While Kuryakin poses as Gabby’s fiance, Solo impersonates an art dealer, stealing an invitation to the Vinciguerra’s race track party from a man named Waverly. While Solo impresses Victoria with his sleight of hand, Kuryakin meets with Gabby’s uncle. Unable to act as he usually would, when bated Kuryakin retires to the rest room and takes out his anger issues on a group of Italian toffs.
Solo and Kuryakin then discover each other trying to break in to a secure facility. It’s here the film comes in to its own, not reliant on today’s technology to break in or open a door. It’s also here that the buddy relationship is to its best effect. What makes the film even more likable is the fact these two spies despite all evidence to the contrary they are not magnificent spies. Instead they have moments of ineptitude which give the scenes levity.
The budding romance between Kuryakin and Gabby also adds levity as she is the rebel to his straight man. While Solo was more the ladies man first with the hotel receptionist and then Victoria Vinciguerra, however you don’t dislike him for his womanising.
You will however dislike Gabby’s Uncle who is a great lover or torture and has a private torture black book where he intends to make a feature of Solo, however once again the imperfections of Solo and Kuryakin as master spies shines through.
Finally the climax introduces Mr Waverly, whom Solo bumped in to in the beginning as the English head who suddenly our two hero's have to report to. Storming Vinciguerra island to find Gabby and her father who unfortunately has completed his work on a nuclear bomb. The chase scene is fun using a motorbike and quad to catch up with Alexander and rescuing Gabby before then using their own weapons against Victoria who listens intently to Solo’s explanation of just how they will beat her, buying the team time to effect Victoria’s demise
Mission complete its time for the trio to go their separate ways or is it? Now an uneasy partnership is established hopefully there will be a few move adventures up Mr Richie’s sleeve.
All in all I loved Man From U.N.C.L.E, the cast worked well, Cavill and Hammer owned the characters and brought levity and wit which made them both lovable despite their flaws. Vikander and Debicki are excellent playing off the male leads with ease and style. With Hugh Grant taking the role of Waverly this is a remarkable team that I think could make a popular and prolific franchise.