Film Review by Kam Williams
Sixties TV-Series Adapted as Nostalgic, Cold War Romp
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a popular television series which enjoyed a four-year run on NBC from 1964 to1968. Ostensibly trading on the phenomenal success of the James Bond film franchise, the show revovled around another dashing character created by Ian Fleming, author of the 007 novels.
This big screen adaptation stars Henry Cavill in the title role as Napoleon Solo, a suave, sophisticated spy employed by U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), a top secret, international espionage agency. While the TV Solo was a college grad and honorably-discharged Korean War veteran, this Napoleon is a convicted art thief who reluctantly agrees to work for the CIA in return for a reduced prison sentence.
The picture was directed by Madonna's ex-hubby Guy Ritchie who is better-known for over the top action adventures like Snatch (2000) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) than the relatively-tame fare he serves up here. The movie co-stars Armie Hammer as Solo's sidekick, KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin. However, where the original Ilya was a mild-mannered sleuth, this time around he's a hot head inclined to lose his temper at the drop of a hat.
This origins tale unfolds in East Berlin in 1963, which is where we find Solo and Kuryakin initially squaring off as adversaries. The former has been dispatched behind the Iron Curtain to recruit Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a missing nuclear scientist feared fallen into the clutches of a crime syndicate seeking to acquire the bomb. Only after Ilya fails to foil the extraction is he introduced to Napoleon as his new partner.
Soon, with Gaby in tow, they're embroiled in a race against time to foil a plot hatched by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), the brains behind the Italian terrorist operation suspected of kidnapping Gaby's father. Unfortunately, the deliberately-paced cat-and-mouse caper which ensues is too low-key to generate much in the way of edge-of-the-seat tension. In this regard, the picture pales in comparison to Kingsman, another nostalgic homage to Sixties spy flicks.
In sum, a passable, nostalgic period piece which does a far better job of recreating Cold War ambience than intrigue.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive material and partial nudity
In English, German, Russian and Italian with subtitles
Running time:116 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
To see a trailer for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K4Iv_N9Nno