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Sugar House Journal

Dan's Review: "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." has style appeal

Aug 14, 2015 09h58 ● By Dan Metcalf

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - © 2013 Warner Bros.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.

Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Christian Berkel, Misha Kuznetsov, Guy Williams.

Written by Lionel Wigram, Guy Ritchie, Jeff Kleeman and David Campbell Wilson, based on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series created by Sam Rolfe.

Directed by Guy Ritchie.



Since most movie studios a) don’t like to take risks and b) have few original ideas, the chic thing to do is mine the vast wasteland of old TV shows in hopes of building a successful franchise (since endless sequels mitigate risk as well). Such is the case for Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, etc., all of which became huge cinematic boons. One problem I’ve noted with this practice is the idea that you can take a short-lived (or perhaps awful) TV show and somehow make it blossom into a successful movie. The failures of such attempts are legion (My Favorite Martian, Car 54, Where Are You?, Beverly Hillbillies, Lone Ranger, etc., etc., etc…). Many times, a movie is released and most of the younger audiences probably don’t know it was based on a TV show. These situations present a daunting task for movie studios, since they have to stick to some sort of blueprint from the original show, while appealing to younger audiences. Such is the case for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., opening in theaters this weekend.

The story follows Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), a former U.S. military officer who took up a life of crime in Europe following WWII. After being captured by the U.S. Government, he is forced to work for the C.I.A. KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is keeping an eye on Solo as he tracks down Gabi (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a former Nazi nuclear scientist in 1960s East Germany. To their surprise, both agent learn their governments are forcing the two rival spies to team up and use Gabi to locate her father before he’s forced to enrich uranium by a pair of evil Italians (Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Calvini). Their adventures take them to Italy, where they must overcome their differences to stop the end of the world.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an enjoyable spy thriller, mostly due to the talents of director Guy Ritchie, who favors style much more than substance. Style is the main attraction of the movie, filled with uber-attractive people wearing the best clothes of the 1960s. Ritchie uses 1960s film styles as well, with split screens and action set to period music. It’s almost like those Dos Equiis beer commercials, with our heroes constantly appearing to be the most interesting people in the world.

Such style carries The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when the story and script fall short. Another saving grace is the chemistry between Cavill, Hammer and Vikander, all of whom deliver adequate performances. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a real international affair with an Englishman (Cavill) playing an American, an American (Hammer) playing a Russian and a Swede (Vikander) playing a German.

Indeed, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. might be one of those movie franchises that eclipses its TV origins, but it remains to be seen if the film will capture the heart of a young generation that’s only read about the Cold War in history books.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E Trailer