It’s not the first of its kind, and it won’t be the last. The action-comedy-spy genre is far from new territory, but The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hits all the right notes, packs all the right surprises, and exceeds expectations of the tried and true espionage comedy—keeping the audience on their toes as it packs a surprise uppercut where they would expect a jabbing cliché.
From the moment the intro action scene begins, director Guy Ritchie utilizes his signature quick, yet high brow pacing to deliver a totally engrossing and explosive first scene that instantly grasps the audience’s attention. As American spy, Napoleon Solo, extracts Gaby Teller, daughter of an alleged Nazi scientist, and plays a game of cat and mouse with the pursuing Russian spy, Illya Kuryakin. Solo successfully escapes with Gaby—only to learn that his next mission requires him to team up with Kuryakin.
Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer, displays a brooding aura and repressed rage that begs to escape with brute force. Hammer’s icy expressions and twitchy movements successfully pull off an authentically deep character that serves as an appropriate foil for the calm, cool, and clever Solo, played by Henry Cavill. Together, with the sarcastic wit of girl-caught-in-the-middle Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander, the three main characters share an on-screen chemistry that is both convincing and entertaining.
As in usual Guy Ritchie form, the plot is thick, yet filled with lightning fast details that require the audience’s complete attention—it’s easy to miss a beat, but Ritchie’s non-stop action and sharp dialogue quickly bring you up to speed if you should fall behind. Surprises abound in the many plot twists; sometimes multiple plot twists within the same act. Even the most seasoned filmgoers who can smell act breaks from a mile away will be caught off guard when the film deviates (or makes you think it’s deviating) from the traditional three-act structure while still maintaining a cohesive flow from each conflict to each resolution. As various unexpected cliffhangers keep the audience in suspense, Ritchie successfully creates a constantly shifting spectrum of allegiance between the characters that makes it difficult to discern which side you’re supposed to be rooting for. (And totally bitchin’ fight scenes!)
The music chosen to accompany the film was a subtle, yet very flavorful touch that served as a tasty accouterment to the authenticity of 1963, while at the same time retaining the darker and edgier elements of contemporary music that magically blends the two time periods together. This, coupled with the high-end but still low tech 1960’s spy gadgets that the characters utilized in the story, and Ritchie creates a universe within the film that stands apart in its own quirky, stylized time period.
With just the right amounts of character development, meticulously calculated action sequences, and sheer entertainment value, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is what appears to be the beginning of the next very promising film franchise.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review
by Anthony Picerno