Nostalgia is vintage these days, but with so many genres taking the step back in time it seemed odd that the Spy genre hadn’t done much so. But “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is here to change that. So can it reignite our love for spy thrillers, or fall out of fashion?
It feels like so long since Guy Richie has directed a film, but he has taken on this project where and American and Russian spy (Henry Cavill and Army Hammer respectively) are forced to work together in order to stop the sale of a nuclear device to the wrong hands. They are helped along the way by the daughter of the creator of the bomb (Alicia Vikander), but both may have different agendas towards reaching their goal, and by any means necessary.
The storyline could be snapped right out of a 1960’s Spy novel, or equally, the TV series this movie takes inspiration from. The classic questions of who’s with who, and where do the real allegiances lie. And in visual terms, this dives right into the Cold War era / Jet Set millionaire and creates a nice Victoria Sponge Cake of the two. The setting is almost perfect in terms of capturing the time.From the dangerous and cold streets of divided Berlin, to the intoxicating atmosphere of an Italian Gran Prix racetrack. It is surely the movie’s Ace card and it plays it dramatically.
The first act sets up things very nicely. You get your opening chase sequence that is both full of Guy Richie trademarks, as well as a constantly developing pace that keeps things interesting. One silly stunt with the cars spinning around together Mission Impossible 2 style doesn’t do much to dampen the excitement. Henry Cavill plays the role with real class and confdence – he’s the kind of character that you know can get out of any situation, all you need to do is watch and wait. It is nice too that it really does feel different from the likes of Bond, and not just because the character is American. Armie Hammer on the other hand, is like cold steel. His manner is direct and unyielding, a natural born killer. Alicia Vikander has a bit more to do than your typical Spy movie female supporting character, but even so I wish she had more varying performances to give. She’s certainly a very good actress. Elizabeth Debicki is in here too, and does play that mysterious, slightly dangerous character well.
Really, when you start placing all the pieces together, this looks to be a very solid and fun movie. It captures the 60’s in a realistic way, including all the Zero-Kelvin cool aspects like the cars and the snazzy hotels. The cast is well chosen, the selected action pieces are exciting, to two leads play off of each well owing to their colliding personalities, and hell, Guy Richie’s direction is great. Full of his trademarks, but only rarely interfering in the film itself. Otherwise it is smooth and silky. Everything about this bodes well, and I wish I could end the review right there.
From the second act on, even though I couldn’t find any real issues I was having, I was only mildly entertained. It is such a strange thing for a film I should be all over, one that has the right elements in the mix. But for some reason the end result was less than I was promised. It is like buyng a classy pair of new shoes, bringing them home, and then finding that the laces are a bit too small. t doesn’t really ruin the shoes, but you didn’t expect this problem to happen.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is going to win over a lot of audiences, I’m sure of that. I’ve heard people rave about it in a way that rarely happens with a new Bond entry. But…. maybe it is just my own personal taste? Maybe what I was hoping didn’t come to completion? It is a really hard answer to pin down and definitely grasp. This remains a very good film – wonderfully stylish, nicely shot, and a solid cast. But something was lacking to make it thrilling, to make it something to love instead of something to admire. Whatever “it” is, I missed it.
Thanks for reading!