"For a special agent, you're not having a very special day, are you?"
The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the popular 1960s television series, comes from filmmaker Guy Ritchie who recreates all of the era's sexy spy genre troupes and Cold War politics in a very polished package. Coming off a string of diverse and subversive spy movies this year, including Kingsman, Spy, the latest Mission: Impossible, and forthcoming Spectre, U.N.C.L.E. plays it both straight with a standard save the world threat as it dials up Ritchie's trademark cinematic tricks and flourishes while amping up a sense of light fun and adventure quite well.
In a humorous twist of international acting talents, British actor Henry Cavill plays American CIA agent Napoleon Solo, while American actor Armie Hammer plays the rival Soviet KGB agent Illya Kuryakin with a suitably thick and cartoonish Russian accent. The pair's chemistry as antagonists and partners is amusing as Ritchie uses a few narrative twists with Sherlock Holmes collaborator Lionel Wigram as co-writer/producer to mine the usual espionage storyline fluidly.
What's most refreshing about the film is the stylish manner with which it executes exposition and gets into the story. After a quick opening credits scene setting the Cold War setting pitting the Americans and Soviets, we're introduced to Alicia Vikander (a Swede playing an East German) whose character is central to the film's plot and things get rolling quickly as Cavill and Hammer face off in a battle of grace versus force.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is unabashedly fun and a wholly joyous viewing experience with all its nods to the '60s style of sexy spy films. It's just enough parts James Bond, Ocean's Eleven, and Mission: Impossible to satisfy our appetite. Both leads, Cavill and Hammer, are satisfyingly charismatic and get to showcase some much needed charm and humour, but the film's light, breezy tone—not to mention its somewhat confusing, unexplained title (it stands for "United Network Command for Law and Enforcement"—does make it feel somewhat slight insubstantial.
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