Jennifer Smyth reveals why The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a surprising gem of a summer blockbuster.
Guy Ritchie’s latest blockbuster re-boots the 1960s TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E in the hope of appealing to a 21st century audience. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer take on the roles of Napolean Solo, a CIA agent, and Illya Kuryakin, a KGB agent, forced to work together to prevent worldwide nuclear disaster. Having been less than impressed by both of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films, I was not exactly sure how to feel about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The trailer did not do much in the way of convincing me this would be worth the cost of a cinema ticket but at the end of the two hours I had been proven wrong.
Ritchie manages to create a 60s aesthetic that doesn’t seem forced, or like he had just watched the early Bond movies again and really wanted to make his own Goldfinger. The overall style of the film, from the music to the costumes, was nostalgic but remained enjoyable due to the actors’ performances. Cavill and Hammer have true on-screen chemistry together and, although I have never seen the original, I could not imagine better casting. Both George Clooney and Tom Cruise had originally been cast in Cavill’s role but were both unable to commit. Without Cavill this film would not have worked. He brings originality that neither Clooney nor Cruise would be able to achieve and a humour that meshes well with Hammer’s character. The same can be said for Alicia Vikander who plays Gaby Teller, a mechanic who is extracted from Germany in order to lead Solo and Kuryakin to their target. Some of the best scenes in the film come from Teller and Kuryakin as they use a fake engagement as their cover for espionage. It’s the clichéd trope of two characters being forced into a fake relationship that turns into something more but because of the obvious nostalgic elements to the style of filmmaking it works without becoming yet another spy movie where the handsome male lead is followed around by his silent, sexy ‘girl’.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a well-executed film from its casting to its shooting. At times, the screenplay is slightly muddled but if you’re looking for something fun and easy to watch this is a clear choice. Without giving away any spoilers, the film’s finale sets it up nicely for a sequel. There’s room to make another story centred on these characters but it will take a lot to come up with a second script that does not fall back into most of the same tropes that can be found in this edition. The Man from U.N.C.L.E is easy summer viewing that does not come across as lazy filmmaking (I’m looking at you, Fantastic Four). If you’re searching for a stylish blockbuster that is not meant to be taken too seriously then this is it.