Movie review: ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ a decent action thriller
– Late summer is a tricky time for releases. Audiences are suffering fatigue from the summer, but they’re not yet ready to take anything too seriously. It becomes even trickier when you’re trying to re-boot a title from the past.
Based on the old spy show from the 1960s, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” takes the action back to the Cold War and tells the story of an American spy, a Russian spy, and the mission that unites them despite all their differences. But is it a property that’s well known? It doesn’t have the name recognition of “Mission Impossible,” and it comes out at an unfortunate time with a structure and story clearly intended to re-boot a franchise.
In the film, Solo (Henry Cavill) is a CIA Agent. Once a solider, Solo became a criminal, Solo traded time in prison for time in service to his country as a spy. He’s sent to East Germany to recruit a scientist’s daughter, Gaby (Alicia Vikander). While extracting Gaby, Solo encounters his Russian counterpart, Illya (Armie Hammer). Their clash leaves both men angry, but leads to Solo and Gaby making it back safely to West Germany. In the morning, Solo is directed to partner with a Russian agent — Illya — to complete his mission to stop a nuclear bomb. It doesn’t sit well with either man, but soon they form an uneasy partnership in order to safeguard the world.
In the process of stopping the nefarious mastermind behind the threat, Libby (Elizabeth Debicki), Solo, Illya and Gaby learn to work well as a team and show their potential as a multi-national crime-fighting unit.
Director Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes,” “Snatch”) gives this story a modern sheen and, judging by the way the film ended, hopes to build a film franchise. Audiences didn’t flock to see the movie. I think it’s in part because it’s not as popular a classic show among new audiences and in part because the film lacks a defined star. It was also hard to tell from the trailer what the movie would be like.
In fact, some may have shied away from the film because it’s another in a line of action/spy films this summer and because of its lead actors. Hammer, in particular, has suffered through several high-profile misses, including “The Lone Ranger.” However, I liked “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” for what it was, and I could see future installments working well, too. I liked Cavill and Hammer in the lead roles, and
Vikander was great as part of the team, too. The story was a little hard to follow and wasn’t incredibly compelling, but the characters and the setting made the movie entertaining.
If nothing else, Ritchie has a talent for doing classy action sequences. This isn’t his best film, but he’s done a nice job of provided a template for a potential franchise. Though I doubt that will happen now.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.
Three stars out of four.