“Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Has Suave New Cast
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Forget about all those movie spy organizations like Impossible Mission Force, S.H.I.E.L.D., CONTROL, SPECTRE, and The Ministry.
Napoleon Solo and his Ukrainian sidekick Illya Kuryakin are U.N.C.L.E.’s two best agents, in case you don’t remember the TV show that ran from 1964 to 1968. It starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.
Now for the movie version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” we have Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. This 007 wannabe is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
You will recognize Cavill as the latest Superman. Hammer was The Lone Ranger. Now they team up as those suave, sophisticated spies Solo and Kuryakin.
Back in the ‘60s there were 105 episodes of the TV series. Eight feature-length motion pictures were cobbled together from episodes of the show.
Surprisingly, this new movie reboot has a fairly threadbare plot: Solo and Kuryakin’s mission is to stop a mysterious international criminal organization bent on destabilizing the world through a proliferation of nuclear weapons. You’d think that out of 105 TV episodes there would be more creative ideas to draw from.
Director Guy Richie co-wrote the script with Lionel Wigram (best known as an executive producer of the “Harry Potter” films), so he has no one to blame but himself.
Nonetheless Richie makes the best of it. After all, he’s a pro, having given us “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and those entertaining “Sherlock Holmes” films starring Robert Downey, Jr. And you can count on him telling the story with style.
Here two former adversaries are forced to work together to stop a terrorist organization with Nazi ties. These cardboard villains, led by fashion-plate Victoria Vinciguerra (Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki), have built an A-bomb.
Set in 1963, we get a revisionist look at the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, which has to be put on hold in order to avert this threat of a worldwide nuclear catastrophe.
The boys try to infiltrate the terrorists through the daughter of a missing East German scientist. However, it turns out Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander, the Swedish actress who starred in “Ex Machina”) isn’t so easy to find herself. But when she turns up, she’s a handful.
There follows gunplay, explosions, car chases, speeding boats, racing off-road vehicles, rappelling down a cable, and fistfights … although much of the fighting is between former enemies Solo and Kuryakin. Frenemies, as Cavill call them.
Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo, says, “In the 40 years since the show went off the air, every year somebody has said they were going to make a new The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie and no one ever did until this one, so it was quite surprising.”
As for Henry Cavill filling his old shoes, Vaughn says, “He’s an attractive actor. I’ve seen him wearing the Superman suit.” Here, clothing-wise, it’s more like “Mad Men” with violence.
Vaughn adds, “The main thing he has to have to make the character work is a sense of humor. That’s what we always said … no matter how dire the situations were, the humor was the thing that helped us prevail.”
Henry Cavill gets that. His website proclaims, “Solo is an action hero who is as bemused as he is formidable. And Cavill, with his elegant sexiness and habit of fighting bad guys while wearing impeccable suits, evokes the nonchalance of Cary Grant in the classic ‘North by Northwest.’”
Well that … or a page from GQ Magazine.