Oh so 1960s. 3.5/5
Does anyone remember that scene from Mad Men where in a dark room Sally, lit up by the flickering tv screen, ‘explores herself’ to the 60s tv hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E? Well I do, and after viewing Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation, all I can say is: I get you Sally, I really do. And while I can’t say I enjoyed this movie in full Sally Draper style, I can admit that this is a film big on eye-candy.
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, take the roles of leading men in this cold war revival. American CIA agent Napoleon Solo and his Russian counterpart Illya Kuryakin. Kuryakin has a bad temper, Solo has a dodgy criminal past and OMG! They must team up along with a beautiful German chop-shop mechanic, Gaby (Alicia Vikander), who’s father has been kidnapped, in order to save the world from a nuclear bomb threat. They all share a love-hate relationship, and beg the question about what matters more, country or camaraderie? Okay. So the plot leaves a little to be desired, but this film is oh-so sixties. The sixties were a time of mini skirts and paintings of soup tins, superficial waholism and bright colours. This film recreates just that. We get Solomon Burke, debates on whether Paco Rabanne could possibly compliment Dior, and gadgets reminiscent of the space race era’s techno-lust. We also get a fitting appearance from Mad Men’s Jarred Harris, who’s character – CIA chief Saunders – perfectly embodies Dave Chappelle’s ‘bad guy from the 40’s’.
The women characters do a nice job of not being helpless, lost damsels in distress. Actually having a bit of oomph as well as carrying roles integral to the plot. Elizabeth Dibicki does charming work as the willowy villain of the tale, Victoria. Responsible for the kidnap of Gabby’s father, a scientist forced to work on the nuclear bomb plot. Also Hugh Grant pays a visit in the role of British special agent Waverly, adding a bit of good old experience to the cast.
Ritchie spirits us away to the sixties in a visual delight of stylish tailoring, big sunglasses and retro cars driving very fast down small alleyways. The soundtrack just drips with cool, and there is a smooth humour running through against the cold war backdrop, giving the director a chance to weave dark war-time footage into scenes. Which is always nice and adds a slightly darker element to the otherwise colour-pop vintage style. We get some pretty shots of Rome for the girls, and a guy ripping off the back of a car with his bare hands, for the boys.
Similarly to Rock’n’Rolla there is a dancing scene, which I can’t help but feel came to be by direct inspiration from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. We also see the use of mustardy yellow subtitles. Just saying.
Overall, The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a fun, bright, fast-paced spy film with a beautiful soundtrack and a beautiful cast. Though a slightly understated plot. Is The Man from U.N.C.L.E style over substance? Probably, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in glamour and good-time humor.