Possible spoilers ahead!
The 1960’s, during the height of the Cold War, American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is tasked with tracking a former Nazi scientist (Christian Berkel), whose sudden disappearance has left American government officials wary of a possible nuclear attack from a mysterious organization.
Solo’s mission leads him to Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the estranged daughter of the missing scientist, who is behind the Berlin Wall and under constant surveillance. Determined to extricate her from East Germany, so that he can use Teller’s familial contacts to track her father, Solo initiates an impromptu rescue mission.
Bu what seemed like a straightforward extraction encounters a major hiccup when Solo and Gaby are chased by KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). A dedicated soviet nationalist, Kuryakin is resolute in his mission to protect Russia from nuclear attack. And like Solo, Illya realizes that Gaby is instrumental in his country gaining an upper hand in the Cold War.
However, just a few hours after the two spies have an epic chase around East Berlin, their respective nations form an uneasy alliance, ordering Solo and Kuryakin to join forces and stop an even greater threat: Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki).
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is based on the 1964-1968 spy-fi NBC TV series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. A show I might add, I never saw. So basically, I rented “”The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” knowing almost nothing about the source material.
I know this movie bombed badly at the box office this past summer. I’m also aware many critics didn’t care for the movie (67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). But I gotta tell ya: I had a really good time with this movie. In fact, if I had to do my Top 10 Movies of 2015 again, I’d have “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” on the list.
Sure, it’s not the best spy movie of 2015, but Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a surprisingly funny spy story that works only because of the charm of its three lead stars. Also, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is not trying to re-invent the espionage movie genre, it’s just doing its own thing, and not taking itself too seriously.
Guy Ritchie still makes his mark with the characters, giving them his trademark wit, and just a little bit of sophistication. Henry Cavill in particular stood out as a really good comedic actor.
Armie Hammer is entertaining as the rage-filled KGB agent, Kuryakin. It’s easy to forget Hammer ‘s got some acting chops, mainly because he’s been in some box office bombs over the last few years. Anyone remember “The Lone Ranger”? Thought not.
However, paired up against Henry Cavill’s clean-cut and tailored American spy, Hammer’s rough but lovable KGB enforcer makes for a dynamic pairing. He’es even responsible for some of the film’s funniest parts. The only bad thing I can say about Hammer, is that his Russian accent needed a little work.
Rounding out the main cast is Alicia Vikander as Teller. All of the sudden, Vikander has built an impressive filmography, including roles in “The Fifth Estate,” “Anna Karenina” and her most impressive work as Ava in “Ex-Machina.” And that little movie was in my Top 10 of 2015.
In the role of Teller, the actress once again steals the spotlight from her male co-stars, and while Cavill and Hammer are stepping into the roles of iconic TV characters, Gaby Teller is Ritchie’s creation.
As a result, Vikander is able to play with the character, and add her own twists here and there. What we get is a capable female lead that can goe toe-to-toe with the spies. And my favorite part? She never behaves as the damsel in distress.
I’ll admit I went in with very low expectations for this movie. But “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” really surprised me. All I know is I had a really good time watching it, and I already ordered the blu-ray.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” final score: 8