When the Cold War was still very much a ‘thing’, there was a television series called The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which focused on an American spy and a KGB agent teaming up to save the world on a daily basis, even if they didn’t really get along. Imagine a buddy cop story with less of the buddy part. Fast forward to now and we have a new Hollywood remake. We know, another remake, but, guess what? This one is actually pretty good.
Directed by Guy Ritchie who, let’s not forget brought us the entertaining Robert Downey Jr.-starring Sherlock Holmes movies and has pedigree in entertaining action films, and starring Superman and The Lone Ranger (although let’s forget about that, shall we?), this remake seemed doomed to failure.
Given a five minute trailer at the cinema, which came across as desperate and needy, with that running time, we should have already seen all the best bits and more, and up against Bond it never should have stood a chance. However, Ritchie has given us a rich slice of entertainment.
Set during the period when Germany was still split by the Berlin Wall, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) have to team up to track down a nuclear weapon before it’s detonated. That’s the basic plot and, probably due to its simplicity, the film chugs along at a merry pace. Solo is a thief who is only fulfilling the spy role to keep out of prison and has a dry wit with a wardrobe of pithy comments to choose from; Ilya has anger management issues and threatens to explode at any time, jeopardising the mission.
Of course, they manage to just about put their differences to one side to complete the mission, and there are a few double crosses here and there as the picture starts to clear during their adventures.
The ending may seem a little bit like an episode of Top Gear at times, but the fact is that the director has not made the mistake of trying to match Bond. Instead, the film has its tongue inserted firmly inside its cheek. A serious, by-the-numbers ‘60s spy thriller would have been droll and not at all what would have been needed here. There are a couple of timescale inconsistencies, but nothing that is too jarring.
Setting itself up for a sequel, this is one U.N.C.L.E. we’d be happy to see again, and not just for Christmas.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: GUY RITCHIE / SCREENPLAY: GUY RITCHIE, LIONEL WIGRAM / STARRING: HENRY CAVILL, ARMIE HAMMER, ALICIA VIKANDER, ELIZABETH DEBICKI, HUGH GRANT, JARED HARRIS / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 7TH