The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – A Spoiler-free Review
Aug 15, 2015
| Rica Wiersema
Good friends are hard to come by. Acquaintances come and go over the course of a person’s life. But, every now and then, there are those with whom we have an instant electric connection that we cannot deny… even if we spend more time trading quarrels than compliments. And there are few friendships more unlikely, or entertaining, than that of an American spy and a Russian assassin at the height of the Cold War...which is exactly what audiences will get to see in the theater this weekend with The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This Warner Bros. adaption of a 1960s television show follows the escapades of all-American casanova, Napoleon Solo (played by Henry Cavill), and brutish Russian spy, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer).With Cold War tensions mounting all around the world, Solo is sent undercover to East Berlin to find Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a German scientist who has been kidnapped by a secret network of undercover Nazis. Unfortunately, getting Gaby to the other side of the Berlin Wall becomes nearly impossible for Solo when Kuryakin appears on their tail. Little does Solo or Gaby know that their new enemy will very soon be their new ally when the CIA, MI6, and the Kremlin team up! Their newly-formed international organization, the United Network Command for Law Enforcement (aka U.N.C.L.E.) plans to track down Dr. Teller and stop the Nazis before they can start a nuclear war.
What follows is a fast-paced mix of action and wit that is as riveting, passionate, and precisely coordinated as an expert tango. Director Guy Ritchie (best known for his work on the Warner Bros. adaptations of Sherlock Holmes) pays homage to the style of 1960s cinema in everything from the soundtrack, to the font of the subtitles, to the slang that the characters toss back and forth in their razor-sharp banter. The movie handles classic spy cliches with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and it doubles as a time capsule that draws viewers into the world of mod sunglasses and jazzy surf music.
Ritchie not only creates a good “spy thriller,” but explores the strained relationships between the characters themselves. The journey to find Gaby’s father and defeat the Nazis involves a lot of espionage and fancy gadgets, but the real fun of this movie comes from watching Solo and Kuryakin struggle not to murder each other along the way. After brushing shoulders as enemies in Berlin, the two spies must save the world by finding a way to cooperate, albeit grudgingly and despite the propaganda that has taught them to do otherwise.
Even though they come from very different environments, the two men eventually discover that they are impressive equals, both with strengths and weaknesses that the other complements. Solo may be better at outsmarting enemies, but Kuryakin is better at overpowering them. Kuryakin may ruin a few missions because he's not able to control his temper, but Solo's massive ego sometimes blows their cover, too. Both men have rough edges, and the conflict between them slowly grinds those edges down until they're just a little smoother than before.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a good reminder of how special friendship really can be, bonding people together no matter the racial or political borders that exist between them. Goldfinger meets Ocean’s Eleven in this charming blast-from-the-past reboot, which is worth not just a ticket, but also a large overpriced soda and several big buckets of popcorn… because you’ll definitely have to bring some friends along, too!