The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Directed by Guy Ritchie; written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram; starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant
Set in Berlin in the 60s during the “extraction” of Gaby – the young daughter of a German nuclear scientist— Napoleon Solo, a CIA agent who was formerly an art thief, clashes with Ilya Kuryakin, a KGB agent who is just as efficient as he is unstable. Soon, the two (along with Gaby) will have to work together, to get Gaby’s father back and to prevent the Vinciguerra’s—a married couple— from selling a dangerous nuclear bomb to former Nazis. Collaboration between the three will be a far from simple task…
Bromance, romance, action, elegance and a split screen: these are the ingredients that Guy Ritchie (already at the helm of various Sherlock Holmes films) mixes in the adaptation of a famous 1960s series to create a highly entertaining film.
From its intriguing cast (with Cavill perhaps playing a more convincing role as a super-agent and self-centered womanizer than he did as Superman) to its lively and excessive style, with its action scenes that are energized by special effects and a screen that divides itself to offer multiple points of view, the operation is certainly well-designed. The biting irony and the clash between the two alpha males who are so certain of their own virility that they can even bicker on the combination of Gaby’s outfit is fundamental to the film’s successful design.
Ritchie, in fact, often shows his ability to skilfully and humorously direct the male duo on the screen. Here, and not without the help of the superb Alicia Vikander and a range of excellent actors (including the persuasive British Hugh Grant), he accompanies the viewer into a simple spy story, in which one’s proper response is one of enjoyment towards the deliberate stunts of the protagonists and of the fashionable James Bonds who are determined to prove that they are the best.
The characterizations are compelling, the female audience will enjoy the romantic tension between the resourceful and smart German mechanic and the hard Russian agent with a dramatic past—at least when this audience is not distracted by Cavill’s undeniably glamorous and seductive stage presence.
The film certainly knows how to take advantage of the Italian setting, underlying (but without being too obvious) the mannerisms and cliché of the country. A precise choice that perfectly fit with the general visual style of the movie: from its costumes, to its accessories (don’t miss Vikander’s large glasses), to its engaging and syncopated pace, the movie’s highlights, everything is carefully design to create a great entertainment.
It is clearly an “origin movie,” which tells the story of an “impossible” team during the Cold War (in this sense, we are far from the “seriousness” of the 007 movies). In fact, this successful attempt suggests that we will perhaps find agents Solo and Kuryakin in other adventures…
Viewer discretion is advised for scenes of violence and brief partial nudity.
Luisa Cotta Ramosino is an Italian television writer and creative producer; she is also a regular contributor to the website Sentieri del cinema and Scegliere un film, an annual collection of film reviews.