– A fun and frivolous 60s-era throwback spy film, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” acts as an origin story and is set as a precursor to the popular TV series that ran for four seasons and ended in 1968. But the film adaptation has less to do with its television roots and more to do with director Guy Ritchie’s predilection for style over substance – and for the most part that makes “U.N.C.L.E.” a sexy summer fling of a movie.
Arriving between two massively higher-budgeted tentpole features, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and the forthcoming Bond installment “Spectre,” “U.N.C.L.E.” will likely pale in comparison, both artistically and financially. This will lead to questions about its release date—why not January?—but while “U.N.C.L.E.”is not as hyper-stylized as Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” films, it’s also a lot more accessible than his black comedy caper films “Snatch.” and “RocknRolla” that had their moments but were overrated.
Everyone from Tom Cruise to George Clooney was considered for the part of American secret agent Napoleon Solo, but Brit Henry Cavill got the nod. With his Superman-sculpted physique, Cavill wears his tight-fighting, natty three-piece suits like a watermelon squeezed into a prophylactic. Gorgeous though he is, Cavill feels a little Clark Kent wooden. Armie Hammer, playing his Russian nemesis-turned-partner agent Ilya Kuryakin, no chopped liver in the looks department himself, doesn’t exactly deliver an Oscar-worthy performance either.
The standout here is Swedish born knockout Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”) as Gaby, a stage musical star turned actress who plays the world’s most beautiful West Berlin grease monkey. The duo must whisk her to Rome in order have Gaby find her real father, a German scientist (hint: his name is Teller) responsible for an atom bomb that mustn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Ritchie and crew have fun with the Italian setting that features a treasure trove of period autos, and a crackerjack soundtrack from composer Daniel Pemberton that includes songs from a diversity of artists like Roberta Flack, Peppino Gagliardi, and Solomon Burke. Two particularly fun scenes include the macho agents arguing at a Roman boutique over Gaby’s fashion options, and another moment when instead of immediately rescuing his partner who’s involved in a high-speed boat chase, Solo dines nearby on wine and cheese in a cargo truck.
“The Man from “U.N.C.L.E.” won’t make anyone forget any of the numerous Bond, Bourne, or MI films, or even the original TV series for that matter, but Ritchie has delivered a slick, deliciously superfluous spy comedy that, thankfully, never goes out of style.
Rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.
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