THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer,
Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: November 17, 2015
“So you’re a thief, but you don’t wear a mask.”
“Sometimes. Just never when I’m stealing things.”
I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that was so darn entertaining, while at the same time so breezy and low key. Leave it to Guy Ritchie to pull off such a rare feat with his feature film update of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s a show I’ve never had a chance to see, but definitely want to based on how much fun I had with the movie.
Ritchie, who started out making gritty British gangster pics like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has now been elevated to overseeing much bigger and lavish action pics like Sherlock Holmes. In this transition, where it would be easy for a director to sell out, Ritchie has maintained a unique eye and a knack for staging set pieces that carry distinctive visual quality. His unique and slick filmmaking skills are put to terrific use in this Cold War espionage tale.
The plot is set in motion by events that go down in East Berlin as Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), an American thief turned spy who’s attempting to escort a woman named Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a former scientist for the Nazis, out of harm’s way. Or, to put it more succinctly, away from the clutches of a towering KGB agent named Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer).
After an intense first encounter with Kuryakin, Solo is informed by his superiors that he and the Russian are to become allies. Their mission is to thwart the plans of a Nazi sympathizer named Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). It turns out she has kidnapped Gabby’s father and is forcing him to construct a nuclear warhead.
The trio are soon in Rome, where Victoria is throwing a social gathering. Solo earns her trust by stealing an invitation to the party, which he openly admits to her. Meanwhile, Kuryakin and Teller pose as a married couple, which spells trouble from the beginning.
It’s interesting to note that Henry Cavill, who’s a Brit, is playing an American while Hammer, an American, is playing a Russian. Both pull off their accents most tremendously to the point that if you’d never seen or heard of either actor, you’d swear they were speaking in their native tongues. They also have terrific chemistry with one another, be it as bickering foes in the beginning or cooperative spy partners they soon become.
There’s also a welcome pop up appearance by Hugh Grant, whose role is actually quite pivotal. It dawned on me while watching this how much of a treasure Mr. Grant is, even in the smallest supporting roles. Needless to say, he is absolute gold in the few scenes he’s in.
Ritchie also stages some uniquely handled action bits, including a brauva opening car pursuit in East Berlin, a boat chase midway through that takes an unexpected odd turn, and a mind blowing climatic piece with Solo and Kuryakin engaging in a rescue pursuit, with one driving a dune buggy and the other on a motorcycle. What makes the last sequence especially fantastic is Ritchie’s camerawork, which operates in a near GPS mode to pinpoint each character’s precise location, since they’re on opposite ends of an island facility. It should also be noted that this scene is backed up by a flooring music score by Daniel Pemberton.
Though I can’t attest if it fully honors its TV show source, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an exuberantly classy and wildly entertaining spy caper. As far as Guy Ritchie’s recent track record is concerned, I actually find this superior to both of his Sherlock Holmes movies. It’s unquestionably a must see for fans of old school espionage, something I do know the TV show dabbled quite a bit in.
Warner delivers a knockout Blu-ray presentation. With so much scenic value to spare, this movie gets an abundance of benefits from the format. The consistent slick looking image is loaded with endless detail, color schemes are operating at superb high quality, and both dark and, especially, bright sequences are stunning in their appearance.
The Blu-ray comes with a Dolby Atmos mix, or will serve as a Dolby TrueHD mix if your surround sound system doesn’t support it. Guy Ritchie’s films always have something going on, sound wise, and this movie is no exception. Between classic jazzy songs, the ultra-cool retro music score, and the jarring action bits, this sound presentation is in pure high quality right from the opening frame.
Included on this Warner Blu-ray are a number of featurettes including “Spy Vision: Recreating the 60s” (looking at what it took for the production team to re-create the time period), “A Higher Class of Hero” (focusing on the two leads in their unique roles), “Metisse Motorcycles: Proper…and Very British” (details the many motorcycles used in the movie, “A Man of Extraordinary Talents” (focusing on Ritchie) and “U.N.C.L.E.: On-Set Spy”, which provides brief clips about various production aspects.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a bit of a departure for Guy Ritchie, and it’s resulted in one of his absolute best efforts to date. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer make a memorable mismatched duo, and the old school breezy feel to the proceedings is certainly a nice touch. Highly recommended!