The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an old fashioned buddy cop adventure film with the benefits of Guy Ritchie’s direction and the incredible chemistry between the two leads. The film has its issues, but ultimately it has enough action to stand among the summer’s action films, as well as a fair amount of comedy.
In the midst of the 1960s Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union are at odds in a worldwide conflict. After the CIA’s most prolific agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) escorts the mechanic Gaby Wess (Alicia Vikander) across the Berlin Wall, avoiding the wrath of the headstrong KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). When the agents are at odds, they’re forced to put aside their differences when a former Nazi terrorist organization threatens a nuclear war, forcing the two agents to work together.
Director Guy Ritchie helms a sleek looking, stylized action film with some excellent action sequences and comic moments. The film isn’t necessarily peppered with unnecessary action, but it has enough exciting sequences to hold up the plot and keep up the lightning fast pace. There’s a fair amount of espionage and intrigue throughout, which promotes a more intelligent style of filmmaking as opposed to mindless action sequences.
The film’s comedy is also a huge plus, especially banter between Cavill and Hammer. It’s definitely a comedic film that puts the comic sequences over any emotional resonance, but the comedy is effective enough throughout the film that it works as a legitimate comedy. Each actor plays off the comedy well, and the writing is clever enough to sustain the jokes throughout, easy if some laughs feel a little bit forced.
The film’s cast really embraces this tone, and the actors arguably are the film’s best quality. Henry Cavill gives a brilliantly charismatic performance that serves as an homage to the classic spy films while still modernizing the stereotypical role. Cavill’s chemistry with Hammer is great throughout, and Hammer does have a great comedic role that never become too over the top. Most importantly, both characters have a legitimate arc and are developed across the film.
The supporting cast is also strong, specifically with Alicia Vikander giving an excellent performance that actually challenges the traditional character norm. Hugh Grant also gives a strong performance, though he’s unfortunately given fairly limited screen time. However, the film’s villains, in particular Elizabeth Debicki, feel a little bit too silly for the rest of the film, and are never given a legitimate motivation, or justify the film’s plot.
The major flaw with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is it’s pacing, with some sequences feeling a little bit too long, especially including an extended third act that never features a legitimate climax. Though the film eventually concludes well, its ending would’ve been stronger if the film hadn’t been as convoluted. There’s also some slower moments that don’t feel necessary to the overall story.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. stands as an entertaining summer film, and feels like a deliberately old-fashioned film that serves as an homage to the ‘60s era as well as a great buddy cop film. The film embraces it’s stylized, goofy tone, and despite its flaws, remains a standout throughout the summer film season. Grade: B-