Joining the long list of spy movies this year is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a reboot of a TV series from the 1960s, which is a bit of a risk considering that there has already been more established series making ways—or soon to be—with Mission: Impossible and James Bond. This would normally be a problem, but when you have Guy Ritchie attached to direct, you’re left with a stylishly satisfying spy flick that might run out of steam part way through, but it nonetheless delivers on razor-sharp wit, and enough suave, dry humor to easily separate this film from the rest with a special kind of haughtiness.
Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) make a triumphant and hysterical duo as the American and KGB spies forced to work together during the Cold War to stop the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by an evil organization. Napoleon Solo (Cavill), the American, is full of sharp dialogue, drops killer one-liners, and has the hot-headedness of someone likely to get themselves killed. Cavill is utterly debonair, crafting one of the most memorable on-screen characters of the year as he charms his way through each scene, helping prove he isn’t just Superman. Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) is viciously funny as the stone-cold KGB spy who takes no nonsense and somehow has enough wit to keep up with Cavill. Their scenes together—which are basically a perpetual pissing-competition throughout the entire movie–are exceptional as they play off one another with extraordinary success. We can only hope we get a sequel so we get more time with these two most unlikely of heroes.
Backing them up on this adventure is Gaby (Alicia Vikander, a name you should be pretty familiar with by now,) a woman whose father Napoleon is trying to track down due to his ties to the Nazi’s during WWII. Vikander, continuing her rise to the A-List, offers up a strong-willed, seductive, and wholly competent woman who might not get her spotlight in action sequences, but makes up for it with a few hilarious moments and an enticing aura. She meshes well with the two men trying to contend with one another while also being the most level-headed of the bunch.
The problem with most Guy Ritchie movies is the plot always tends to get completely muddled when he tries to reveal a big twist—he can never seem to manage to make a graceful transition into the denouement from the climax. This can be seen in the Sherlock Holmes films—as well as here—especially when there needs to be an explanation on why a character went from Point A to Point B—there just isn’t one. The film moves at a blistering pace for the first half, but then things almost go to a standstill after a big reveal, as we chug along to a humorously anti-climatic finale. Luckily, for the sake of the viewer, it does not deter much from the movie as a whole, especially if you are familiar with Ritchie’s other work.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a gorgeously detailed spy film with sensational performances, a rocking soundtrack, and comedy so sharp you’ll want to bring bandaids. Is it perfect? No, but Ritchie has managed to make a spy film—in a year packed with many others— that stands out with the ease and coolness that only he can manage.