In a year that is rather heavy with the spy genre flicks; Spy, Kingsmen: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and, this Christmas, the latest James Bond film, how is one supposed to stand out from the other? Well, having the amazing Guy Ritchie as a director sure helps. His latest movie is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., based on the spy television series of the same name that ran from 1964 to 1968. Set in the 1960’s, while the Cold War was raging, two agents from opposing sides, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and the KGB’s Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), are forced to work together to extract a young woman, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) from East Berlin whose father is being held by Nazis who want him to build them a nuclear bomb. What could have been just another spy flick, ends up being a beautifully stylized film filled with all things that make Guy Ritchie movies so much fun.
Ritchie has a style all his own, and U.N.C.L.E. is no exception. Allowing him it show off more of his creative style. So many new filmmakers, and some old ones, are way too scared to try new things, but that can never be said about Ritchie. The way he uses shots and colors to convey feelings and tone. Or allowing the camera to linger and capture moments that not only are interesting looking, but add more depth to an already well-written character. He truly is one of the better directors of the last 15 years. So, when hearing he was going to direct this adaptation, and it being a period piece, this was a no-brainer of how cool and smooth this movie was going to be. And it doesn’t disappoint at all.
Based on the show where spies from Russia and America team up to stop bigger threats to the world is an interesting idea. It leads well into an interesting movie where these two spies and nations do not get along. Solo and Kuryakn do not like one another at all. Both are the best of the best for their countries, each bringing their own style and special talents to the spy game. Solo is an excellent theif and conman, where Kuryakn is a brute force of nature that can’t be stopped. Each talent gives way to natural comedy for many scenes in which the two character are learning to like and trust one another.
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer brilliantly play both. Each brings their own elegance and class to these two charming chaps from the 1960s. They both look great, kick ass, and really are interesting to watch. Each is doing their own thing with scenes together that really say volumes without saying anything at all. That’s a credit to them as actors and Ritchie for knowing exactly how much he needs from his actors. It’s clear this was a collaboration from all involved. You see it in every scene and line that is uttered. Much time was spent just making sure everything was just right. Not only does it show, but just makes the movie that much more fascinating to watch.
Not to be outdone by our heroes in the movie, there are some fascinating women characters who are both strong and independent. Frankly, just like all the men in a guy Ritchie flick, his women characters are just as kickass. Alixia Vikander as Gaby Teller is supposed to be our damsel in distress, but she never once is. She’s smart and always a step just ahead of our heroes. She’s being used but you always seem to feel as the movie goes on, that she’s really using them. She keeps you on your toes the whole flick. A fun character that has many layers.
Our villain for the movie is Victoria Vinciguerra play by Elizabeth Debicki. Beautiful, sophisticated, and deadly. She just exudes poison with every line she says, how she moves, even how she dresses. She is a Nazi, she has a nuke, she has plan and is always ten steps ahead of our heroes. She is an impressive force who is much more than just a third wheel to her male stars as she holds her own with a verve and charm we rarely get to see of the women in spy movies. She is a perfect spy adversary for this 1960 setting.
The movie has some great action and the special effects are top notch. If the movie has any faults it would be that it does have a few slow moments, but it is more about the specific pacing Ritchie is doing. Where it could seem slow to some, it might be tension building to others. Really a roll of the dice to which the audience might feel it is. But, in either case, the action gets ramped up to 100 by the end of the movie as our heroes must stop the bomb from going off by any means necessary.
What will make this stand out from other movies, and not just spy ones, is the look and feel. This movie stands on it’s own. Frankly, it’s one of the most gorgeous, stunning films of the year. From the vibrant colors that seem to burst on the screen, to the perfectly timed music, everything in this movie was thought out to the finest detail. Bottom line: Guy Ritchie has created another absolutely brilliant, period action film with a great on-screen pairing, and a story that leaves you in a place where you’ll be dying to see more of these characters.