Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
Search for Posters
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Groth, Christian Berkel, Luca Calvani, Misha Kuznetsov, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, based on a story by Jeff Kleeman, David Campbell Wilson, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity
Running Time: 116
Date: 08/14/2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Spy vs. Spy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Guy Ritchie has gone back to what he does best: making Quentin Tarantino movies. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially given what happened when Ritchie moved away from this realm (i.e. Swept Away, Revolver, etc.). His first two movies, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000), were always his best, and they surely would not have been bankrolled if not for the success of Tarantino's first two movies (especially in the UK). For The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he evokes Tarantino's fanboy side, the guy who watches hours and hours of old TV shows, finding glorious things in them.

Based on the TV series that ran from 1964 to 1968 (switching from black-and-white to color), the movie keeps the same character names and setup, and remains set in the early 1960s, but, of course, gives us an origin story. Thankfully it's less slavish than usual and feels playful right from the start. An American agent, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), tracks down the beautiful Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). She's a skilled auto mechanic who is also the estranged daughter of an ex-Nazi who has invented a deadly nuclear device. He has recently been spotted working with some evil Russians and must be found.

After rescuing her, Solo tangles with another agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), a tough Russian who is seemingly unstoppable (he chases after Solo's car on foot). Before long, their superiors inform them that they will be working together to capture the bomb and find the scientist, thereby initiating a movie full of bickering that will eventually ensure a lasting friendship. Gaby joins them, posing as Kuryakin's fiancee. Their work involves robbing a safe, which triggers an alarm and sets off a terrific boat-chase scene (part of which is viewed at a distance in the rear-view mirror of a nearby truck). There's also a scene at the racetrack, and a showdown at an island hideout. Ritchie gives us a kind of split-screen montage of the heroes arriving and taking out the guards... getting on with the good parts.

His movie is highly stylish and seems to love every second of it. It acknowledges 1960s filmmaking — the original The Italian Job came to mind — and includes an appropriate jazzy score. The clothes are amazing enough to deserve their own acting credit, and the sets and colors all seem immaculate, and intricately designed. Henry Cavill has probably never been better in a movie; it's the first time he's given something resembling a performance. Before this he moped his way through Man of Steel and Immortals, but Armie Hammer is less funny here than he has been or can be. Together they make a handsome pair, but in the end it's casting based on looks more than on personality. Nonetheless, Ritchie's snappy, well-paced scenes are over before anyone can get bored, and the movie as a whole does not take itself too seriously. It's a ripping good time.

Warner Home Video offered a Blu-ray edition that also includes a DVD and a digital copy. The quality is predictably excellent. Extras are a little less so, mostly a collection of short little featurettes and interviews. Motorcycle nuts will be interested in a short visit with Gerry Lisi.

Movies Unlimtied