In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.
I remember the old TV show “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and I recall the two charismatic leads, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum and it was their onscreen chemistry that held the show together, no matter how outrageous the story lines became. Thank God director Guy Ritchie chose to follow this criterion for his big screen adaptation. Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin ooze charisma and magnetism and are both engaging when required and earnest when imperative. While the movie does boast some impressive action set-pieces, it is the sheer star quality that both men bring to the table that literally keeps you attentive to the very end.
As the movie begins, it is 1963 and Napoleon makes his way into East Germany to rescue a young lady by the name of Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and bring her over to the West. Rumor has it that her father Udo (Christian Berkel), a scientist, has joined forces with some nefarious bad guys and is in the midst of creating a nuclear bomb for them, capable of killing millions. While trying to make their way out of East Germany, they encounter Christian Berkel, a KGB agent who almost prevents them from leaving. The next day however, both men are informed by their bosses, that the U.S. and Russia are teaming up to try and prevent this nuclear bomb from being detonated and that they must work together.
Naturally, both men are skeptical and dubious of each other but over time, they come to understand and respect one another. Nonetheless, when it is suggested by their superiors that they both assume fake identities in order to try to infiltrate the bad guy’s lair and that Gaby is to accompany them on their mission, in the hopes that she will be able to lure her father out of hiding, both men must put their differences aside and together, concentrate on their assignment if they are to successfully thwart the detonation of a nuclear bomb and bring the terrorists to justice. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” never takes itself too seriously and for the most part, it plays tongue-in-cheek.
Admiringly, it never rolls over into self-parody and has enough mystery and intrigue to keep the audience enthralled. Unlike most other spy capers such as James Bond, Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible, the film knows when to switch from lighthearted to no-nonsense and still keep you preoccupied. The performances are top-notch all around and the finale leaves everything open for the inevitable sequel. Director Guy Ritchie delivers an admirable film that may very well be the starting point for a new franchise and with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in their respective roles, things can only get better. Go see this instead of the dreadful “Fantastic Four,” this is well worth your time. And money.
In theaters August 14th
For more info about James visit his website at www.IrishFilmCritic.com