Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

manfromuncleI had been anticipating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for quite some time, but it arrived in the theatre here in Norway with little fanfare and only two screenings on Saturday night. I doubt there were more than twenty people in the small screen, which is a shame because I do think this movie has a bigger audience than it’s getting.

The film is based on a TV show from the 60s, but there are (according to wikipedia) several novels and a few comic books. One of the novels is titled The Vampire Affair, and apparently involves not only vampires, but werewolves, and an investigation in Transylvania. It sounds delightful, and could easily be a case for the new film versions of U.N.C.L.E.

Guy Ritchie directs the new team: Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo (perfect spy name), Armie Hammer as the Russian, Illya Kuryakin, and Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller. She is the daughter of a German scientist who has allegedly been kidnapped by Italian Nazis who hope to build nuclear weapons. If that plot doesn’t captivate you, I somehow doubt it’s suppose to. The story feels like it’s only there so that our characters have something to talk about and run around fixing while looking cool.

But don’t let that fact put you off. I must admit I was entertained almost throughout the whole thing. It’s a classic spy movie (with a classic plot I guess) coated with modern action and direction. If I had to rank it on my Guy Ritchie scale I’d put it above the Sherlock Holmes movies (which I also enjoyed for their own dynamic duo), but still far below his classic Lock Stock and Snatch. 

The films opens with a fantastic car chase round East Berlin. It perfectly sets up our protagonists and makes a promise of a delightful relationship to come. It’s debatable how well that promise is fulfilled, but I think I got my money’s worth.

Napoleon Solo is a classic 60s James Bond, but with a definite modern sense of urgency. He could have easily stepped into Dr. No. Unfortunately, while the pacing is a lot better for modern audiences, I fear the scale of the film could have done with an update as well. Even though we do get an “evil lair” type island near the third act, it’s simply set dressing and our boys rush through it. Napoleon Solo is a man who needs to be punching his way into volcano lairs (or a Transylvanian castle apparently), not in a knock-off Alcatraz.

Everyone else does a good job with that they’re given. I loved the banter, and a lot of the gags made me really crack up. I could have watched the boys try and get themselves out of difficult situations all night. The love-story was also surprisingly sweet. As someone who had not even heard of the TV show, it was nice to watch a “new” franchise.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a old-school spy movie with modern action, a great soundtrack, funny banter and likable characters. Maybe Ritchie could have made something a bit sharper in his Snatch days, but I definitely enjoyed the film more than enough to hope for more.

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About filmroller

I'm primarily a history student, but my love of movies made me write my master thesis on historical films. This meant I read more film theory books than history, so I decided I wanted to keep writing about movies in my spare time.
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