Movie Review: ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Hugh Grant

Plot: At the peak of the Cold War spy games in Berlin CIA agent and former thief Napoleon Solo is teamed with KGB powerhouse and borderline psychotic Illya Kuryakin to investigate ex-Nazi members building a nuclear bomb. 

Review: So we arrived at this reboot of a 50 year old TV show after some generic movie trailers and a cliched sounding plot. And we LOVED it. If the trailers for this caper did little for you, that’s not surprising. They focused on the entirely wrong parts of the movie. 

Let’s talk about what works. Cavill and Hammer for one thing. They’re both on form as the so-smooth-he-can’t-be-real grifter blackmailed into turning spy and the dark backstory, hairline trigger professional special agent respectively. Their odd couple partnership is downright delightful – a great rapport carries every scene they share and their constant game of trying to one up each will keep you chuckling. Balancing out these two is Vikander (already having a great year after Ex-Machina) as German Gaby, integral to their mission but with uncertain loyalties. She easily could’ve been a stereotypical tough girl or plain love interest, but she plays a multi-faceted role who effortless keeps pace with the leads. 


Style oozes out of every frame. The art design time have gone to town in recreating the era with costumes, cars and gadgets that just look downright cool. The 1960s setting could’ve been a gimmick, but it forms a rich background tapestry that makes the movie that extra bit fun. A lot of time has been spent recreating the era in which the movie is set, and it clearly draws inspiration from the larger than life feel of the original Bond movies.

By this point in his career Guy Ritchie is a competent director, but he seems somewhat marred by a need to include his trademark visuals and editing style. A third act chase scene gets needlessly convoluted by rapid fire pans that add little to the tension. We also see altogether to many instances of flashing back to the start of the scene to see what really happened (similarly done in the Sherlock Holmes movies). Four out of five times it works but occasionally fills in blanks we’d worked out for ourselves, such as Cavill stealing a ticket, meeting a guy who had his ticket stolen, then flashing back to show that Cavill had stolen his ticket. Well, duh. 


That said this is the best film from Ritchie since his stellar two debut features. We spend enough time getting to know the characters through fun set pieces and scenarios before the stakes get ramped up, and there’s a real sense of investment in the story. It’s fast, fun, sexy, cool and features some of the most fun performances we’ve seen in years. It’s clear the actors are having a blast and we can go along with them. Check it out.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN