The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)


The Man from U.N.C.L.E. didn’t catch on with the public as strongly as I had hoped. I absolutely love this movie, with my interest instantly sparked by its stylish AF trailers. Then I took a closer look at both male leads in their 60s finest and started to swoon. Then the female lead started to become a thing and I fell for her too. However, most people did not agree with me, making this one of the biggest flops of 2015.

Yes, I love U.N.C.L.E., but I understand why audiences stayed away. The film is based on a 1960s television show of the same name. I don’t think the TV-to-film trend is inherently bad, but potential audiences may have been wary to commit to yet another reboot of this kind (especially when so many turn out bad). There’s also a general outcry of Hollywood being out of new ideas, and this reinforces that idea. A lot of people may have been turned off right there.

While this movie recycles an old property, I think it does so in a smart and engaging way. A lot of action flicks have gone gritty and dark. U.N.C.L.E. manages to bring much needed levity and humor to the spy genre. It also revels in sophistication and luxury in a way that not even James Bond films do anymore. (Fun fact: the original television series was co-created by Bond author Ian Fleming.) This is a spy movie I can watch over and over without feeling mentally spent afterwards, which is sometimes exactly what I want.

U.N.C.L.E.‘s cast is its biggest asset, and the reason why I thought it would get better box office returns. Henry Cavill stars as Napoleon Solo, a professional thief who was “drafted” by the CIA. Cavill’s stardom was sealed by his superhero turn in Man of Steel, a movie that despite all its faults, was still a huge hit. Armie Hammer joins him as Soviet spy Illya Kayaking. I love Armie and want him to find a franchise of his very own, because lord knows The Lone Ranger was never going to be it. Alicia Vikander rounds out the trio as German mechanic Gaby Teller. 2015 was Vikander’s year, winning multiple awards and nominations for her work in Ex Machina and The Danish Girl. Finally, Hugh Grant pops in as MI6 agent Alexander Waverly, and is the only actor in this playing their born nationality. The entire cast is clearly having a lot of fun in their roles, even Hammer and Vikander, whose characters are scowling for most of the movie.

Of course, it’s not perfect. My biggest complaint is that the villain is not well fleshed out. Elizabeth Debicki plays Nazi sympathizer Victoria Vinciguerra. Her motives are vague, and her scenes would be largely forgettable if not for the other actors she interacts with. I wanted her to get her hands dirty, but alas, she’s the type of baddie who outsources the physical crime to others while she project manages the entire thing from her fabulous villas and mod-style offices. She looks good while doing it, sure, but I wanted more from her.

There is talk of an U.N.C.L.E. sequel, but I’m only cautiously optimistic that one will be made. Studios are in the business of making money (fair enough), and greenlighting a franchise off of a box office bomb is a huge risk. However, with US-Russian relations what they are, this movie’s premise suddenly feels more relevant.

Rating: B+

This is an perplexing film to review. I like it a lot, but it certainly did not catch on with the general public. I don’t really understand why, this film has a lot going for it. The two leads (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) have terrific chemistry together (it also doesn’t hurt that they’re both some nice looking man candy), and the setting of 60s Europe make the generic story seem fresh enough. Everybody seems like they’re having a terrific time in this film, particularly Hugh Grant, who seems to relish hamming it up as a British spy leader. One reason for the lack of enthusiasm for this film is that it is based on an old television show. Given how often those have turned out terrible, I can understand the trepidation from the general public. But if this film is given a chance, you can have an entertaining time.

Henry Cavill plays CIA agent Napoleon Solo, who is forced to team up with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) to prevent a criminal organisation from getting their nefarious hands on some nuclear weapons. Along for the ride is Gaby (Alicia Vikander), whose uncle has ties to the organisation Solo and Illya are hunting down.

This movie isn’t perfect. The villain is pretty forgettable and the story is nothing new, but the fresh aspects of this movie make it watchable. The whole angle of America and Russia working together in the 60s is enough for this film to be fun and it is sold really well by Cavill and Hammer who work so well together. Cavill is having a lot of fun here and is able to show that the wooden persona we were forced to put up with in Superman is not all his fault. He’s great as the suave and cocky American secret agent. Equally good is Armie Hammer as the Russian spy. He is distrusting of everyone and constantly annoyed by the American he is forced to team up with. Balancing things out nicely is Alicia Vikander who ends up posing as Armie Hammer’s fiancée. The three of them have terrific chemistry together, and that alone is enough for me to give this a positive review.

Recently it was announced that there is a sequel in the works for this film, which I will be more than happy to see if it ever comes to fruition.

Rating: B


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