The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly okay. Who knew Guy Ritchie would come up with such an interesting way of doing a spy movie. Sorry, a super-spy movie. It’s not an espionage movie, it’s a James Bond movie, only not. Because Ritchie isn’t anywhere near as interested in set pieces as he is how he presents them. There’s no gee whiz factor to U.N.C.L.E.’s special effects sequences. Ritchie wants the audience to pay attention to the characters.
And the characters are a lot of fun and most of the performances in the film are nearly excellent. All of them are good, even the smaller parts. U.N.C.L.E is just too self-aware, just too cute for the actors to ever transcend the material. Instead, they just revel in said material.
The standout for that reveling is Armie Hammer. While Henry Cavill has a great time playing a lovable cad, there’s not much acting involved. Hammer holds a Russian accent and sells the idea the viewer is supposed to take him seriously as a threat. He’s one of the film’s heroes and he needs to be believable as a threat. It’s a neat trick and surprisingly ambitious in a popcorn movie.
U.N.C.L.E.’s other strong performances are the female leads (Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki) and then Jared Harris, who chews the scenery as a master spy.
A great period soundtrack, beautifully set to the sequences, helps a lot.
The film’s a perfectly reasonable effort. Ritchie’s found his (mainstream) niche.
Directed by Guy Ritchie; screenplay by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, based on a story by Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson, Ritchie and Wigram and the television series created by Sam Rolfe; director of photography, John Mathieson; edited by James Herbert; music by Daniel Pemberton; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by John Davis, Steve Clark-Hall, Kleeman and Wigram; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Henry Cavill (Solo), Armie Hammer (Illya), Alicia Vikander (Gaby), Elizabeth Debicki (Victoria), Luca Calvani (Alexander), Sylvester Groth (Uncle Rudi), Jared Harris (Sanders), Christian Berkel (Udo), Misha Kuznetsov (Oleg) and Hugh Grant (Waverly).