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Who the heck is THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.? – Movie Review

There’s been a resurgence of late in spy films, especially ones that go against the grit of the Bourne films, instead opting to recapture the feel of classic James Bond films from the Roger Moore and Sean Connery eras. Kingsman: The Secret Service unapologetically brought the Moore era into a 21st century bloodbath. Even the last Bond outing, Skyfall, was a post-modern take on the classic 007 films. With Guy Ritchie‘s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., everything old is new again as the film literally tries to ape the look and feel of the Connery-era Bond movies … or does it?

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Based on the TV show that ran from 1964-68 that nobody under the age of 50 remembers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively. Solo is an American spy and Kuryakin his Russian counterpart, forced into working together to stop a beautiful heiress (Elizabeth Debicki) from getting her hands on a nuclear missile. Their only lead is an auto mechanic (Alicia Vikander) whose father is suspected to be working on the device.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Spies are trying to stop a nuclear weapon from going off. How many times has that been done? Twenty? Ninety? Ritchie & Co. are very aware of this, using the plot merely as a backdrop to showcase beautiful people in beautiful clothes in beautiful locations all over 1963 Europe.

The heavy focus on style over substance makes The Man from U.N.C.L.E. a curious piece. Having bounced development hell for years, and attracting A-list talent including Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, U.N.C.L.E. lacks a singular vision, instead pulling bits from everyone who came and went. Sometimes, U.N.C.L.E. tries to have the kind of cool that made the Ocean‘s trilogy breezy fun, but Ritchie, with his over-the-top, hyper-stylized style, struggles with Soderbergh’s subtle style.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


There are some trademark Ritchie moments in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., including the opening sequence, which is the best part of the film. But the clash of styles makes most of the action sequences feel shrugged off, sleight-of-hand moments seemingly have to be explained almost immediately, and the entire film is so light it feels like it’ll float away at any moment.

More than anything, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. feels like a live-action version of FX Network’s spy spoof Archer. Cavill is almost a dead-ringer for Sterling Archer, and every time someone calls Solo “the CIA’s most effective spy,” a moniker Archer gets nearly once a season, the familiarity becomes almost uncanny. All the movie needs is Pam and her shark puppet, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would literally be a live-action Archer.

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The Author

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill used to spend his time writing screenplays into a notebook instead of doing homework. That love of film and all things storytelling led him to spend most of his time writing. He's been a film critic in North Carolina for over five years, and his debut novel, THE BOOK OF BART, is out now. Please buy it. Ryan also feels odd about referring to himself in the third person.