"this has something rather special up its sleeve that you simply can’t turn away from"
As Guy Richie takes a break from the wondrous world of Sherlock Holmes, he gives us a rather sexually charged international dose of spy-ness with his trademark take on TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Of late, spy thrillers, very much like the superhero genre, are seeping their way into every corner of cinema as we know it. From the eloquently violent Kingsman to the rawness of Spooks and all the way to the abysmal comedy that was Spy, we’ve had them all. Yet with Spectre looming over our heads, what better than an old fashioned spy tale to whet our appetites?
Set in Berlin during the Cold War, we follow two agents, the very America Napoleon Solo and the very Russian Illya Kurakin. Cool and collective Solo, juxtaposed with Illya’s short volcanic fuse, these two complete antitheses have been lumbered with the same mission much to their disgust. Tracking down the elegant beauty come mechanic Gaby, daughter of missing nuclear scientist gone rogue, we are shown just how skillful one can be in a three-piece suit, and it’s here that we can sit back and feel safe in the hands of Richie as he does what he does best. Not essentially an action-packed extravaganza, yet when we do see action, it is perfectly matched with a swift and quirky score consisting of flutes and booming percussion mixed with the obvious choice of Italian 60’s pop. This is good, old-fashioned high-octane fun that is corny and cheeky, albeit never boring.
Solo and Kurakin bounce off each other with quick off the mark dialogue exchanges that both drive the narrative forward in a somewhat literal sense whether in a car or speedboat and gives great ammunition for on screen wit. Watching the two squabble over what handbag looks better with what dress or simply trying to out stage each other at every turn makes for hilarious viewing that lightly massages both of their spy egos, as well as shown us that they are ultimately human. This isn’t as tightly written as Snatch or, indeed, Sherlock and we are subjected to an overuse of spelling things out for us, but these are tiny mishaps in an otherwise car chase, bullet fuelled ride.
The inescapable thought of imagining Cavill ripping open his shirt enhances the comic relief; possibly not in the way they intended, yet isn’t Clark Kent an utterly convincing spy to begin with? With an oh-so-charming air of smugness, the action star holds his own as the suave CIA agent, alongside Hammer who brings an air of puppy dog cuteness to his 6 ft 5, built like a machine KGB operative. Although, Ex-Machina star Alicia Vikander shines over and above her male counterparts as the enchanting and silently manipulative Gaby.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E is undoubtedly, a highly enjoyable film. With a blink and you miss it cameo from a world renowned football star, Grant at his British finest and classic split-screen tactics, one can’t help but be lured in by all the common traits this skillful filmmaker continues to adopt. A tad self-indulgent at times and nothing we haven’t seen before, yet this has something rather special up its sleeve that you simply can’t turn away from.