THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Hugh Grant
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity)
Selig Rating: Matinee
Runtime: 116 Min.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is set in 1963.  Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), Soldier turned art thief turned CIA Agent (not his idea) enters East Berlin.  His mission is to bring in the daughter of a German rocket scientist known to be working on nuclear bombs.  His disappearance has heightened the already dangerous cold war between the US and Soviet Union.  The CIA wants Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander), currently an auto mechanic, so they can use her in their efforts to locate her father.
Finding her in East Berlin is relatively easy.  Getting her out is anything but.  The couple is pursued relentlessly by a Soviet agent.  Whatever they do, wherever they turn, they simply can’t shake him!  The chase through the drab dark streets goes in spurts as the agent catches up with them only to have them slip through his fingers.  They lose him for good only when Solo’s people shoot a zip line across from west to east so Napoleon and Gabby can ride across the wall into West Berlin.
Napoleon is feeling pretty good about his success until the Soviet agent appears during Solo’s meeting with his boss.  The fight between the two men is sloppy but exactly what you would expect of two men brawling in a public restroom.  Worst, for them at least, is when the Soviet agent’s boss walks in at the end of the brawl.  The two spy-bosses confirm that the US and the Soviet Union have decided to join together in a joint operation to find the scientist and stop him before he succeeds in building a nuclear weapon.
The two governments figure the best way to locate the father is to persuade Gabby’s Uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) to volunteer the information.  The second option is to get the information from the uncle’s employers, Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and her husband Alexander (Luca Calvani).
It is decided that Napoleon will go in as a thief with a reputation for filling the holes in collections with “hard to acquire items.”  The Soviet agent, Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) will go in with Gabby as her Russian architect fiancé.
From the start, the two agents are distrustful of each other, planting bugs everywhere in each others belongings.  As Ilya and Gabby make contact with the uncle, the Russian agent is stressed as he is forced to restrain his normal violent tendencies to fit the more passive persona he is portraying.  Solo has an easier time as he steals an invite to an exclusive party thrown by Uncle Rudi’s employers and then steals his way into her attention.
The duo sneaks into the Vinciguerra’s satellite factory in an attempt to find bomb materials.  They continue to constantly try to one-up each other.  Then Solo screws up while opening a vault and the alarms go off.  Their race to escape sees them trying to leave the plant in a speed boat.  Plant security close the three gates to the sea before the boat can be piloted through one of them.
Ilya races around the bay in a vain attempt to lose the pursuit.  Solo is thrown from the boat, swims to shore, enters a truck and then sits and eats a stolen sandwich while he watches Ilya’s ill-fated escape attempt.  When his boat is destroyed, Napoleon drives the truck off the pier and onto the attacking boat.  He saves Ilya’s life.  The pair race back to the hotel arriving just in time to prevent Victoria from proving they were behind the break-in.
The team is betrayed by Gabby.  This results in Napoleon’s capture though Ilya manages to escape.  Victoria takes Napoleon to her preferred interrogator, Uncle Rudi.  It seems that the Nazi’s allowed him to hone his craft during the war and Victoria has allowed him to keep his skills current ever since.
Ilya comes to Solo’s rescue.  The two race to capture the bomb which Gabby’s father, Udo (Christian Berkel), has completed.  Victoria cleans up behind herself (eliminating loose lips).  The husband and wife team then each take a backup of the scientist’s note and head out.  Ilya and Napoleon give chase.
The chase and the finale of this film are pretty textbook for a spy movie.  They are fun to watch but nothing to get really excited about.  I did like that the good guys actually get dirty racing through the mud for once.
This film is a prequel to the 60’s TV show (which ran from 1964 through 1968).  The final scene sets us up for new adventures.  I am sorry to say that I don’t see this film becoming a franchise as it just doesn’t have the panache of the original.  The chemistry just isn’t there.  Sadly, it is only an okay film. 
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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