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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD combo.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) movie poster The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Theatrical Release: August 14, 2015 / Running Time: 116 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Guy Ritchie / Writers: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram (story & screenplay); Jeff Kleeman, David Campbell Wilson (story); Sam Rolfe (television series)

Cast: Henry Cavill (Napoleon Solo), Armie Hammer (Illya Kuryakin), Alicia Vikander (Gaby Teller), Hugh Grant (Waverly), Jared Harris (Sanders), Elizabeth Debicki (Victoria Vinciguerra), Luca Calvani (Alexander)

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In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guy Ritchie turns a 1960s television series into a contemporary-styled caper bearing the distinct imprint of the Sherlock Holmes and Snatch director.
Set in the '60s, the film opens along the Iron Curtain, as American CIA agent Napoleon Solo (our current Superman, Henry Cavill) picks up mechanic Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and promises to get her out of East Germany. The getaway requires precise manuevering because it is being watched by Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), a deadly serious Russian KGB agent determined to stop the stealthy escape.

Shots are fired in this early car chase, setting the tone for another action-heavy international Guy Ritchie movie. Mortal enemies Solo and Kuryakin are assigned to work with each other, with the Russian posing as the fiancι of Gaby. The mission is for the trio to thwart the communist regime's burgeoning nuclear weapons program. Of course, a two-hour Guy Ritchie movie has a roundabout way of serving that plot. It plays slightly with chronology to unleash some twists, but the story is typically serving action sequences instead of the more desirable alternative.

Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) strike a pose in the closing shot of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Fortunately, Ritchie knows action. He manages to keep fights and chases fairly exciting even when their outcomes are never in doubt and their particulars are rarely worth detailing. The director, who also shares screenplay credit with Sherlock Holmes scribe Lionel Wigram (story credits are divided by this duo and another scarcely-experienced pair), gives our two hunky leads a nicely comedic rivalry. Kuryakin, prone to psychotic episodes, and Solo, a suave thief too valuable to rot in jail, fall just short of buddy comedy status, but their playful one-upmanship makes this adventure more human and enjoyable than it otherwise would be. It's a variation on Ritchie's Holmes and Watson that doesn't invite comparisons or criticism of self-repeating.

U.N.C.L.E. is suitably stylish, outfitting our heroes with sharp and colorful period threads. Ritchie largely resists period tunes in favor of original score by Daniel Pemberton. The director's instincts are more visceral than commercial and they might just keep this polished tale from finding an audience. It's tricky adapting an old TV show whose fanbase has aged out of Hollywood's business model, leaving young people with neither fondness for nor familiarity with the source material. Cynics will argue that originality is dead in Hollywood. Purists may object to whatever modifications Ritchie and company have performed to make the film more palpable for modern moviegoers. And whoever isn't covered in those two demographics might bristle at caring about characters and universes they've never heard of.

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) coaches Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) on how to act like an ordinary engaged couple.

There is a history of Superman actors struggling in movies without a cape and tights. Let us also not forget that prior to the two Sherlock movies, Ritchie had scored just a single minor hit fifteen years ago on Snatch. The Holmes mysteries,
Christmastime blockbusters whose success is probably more deservingly chalked up to Robert Downey Jr. and the character's enduring lore, have nonetheless vaulted the British filmmaker once best known for being Madonna's husband to a position of importance at Warner Bros. Pictures, for whom he's currently filming the IMAX 3D Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur for a mid-summer 2016 release.

Though generally short on star power for a $75 million picture (despite the wealth of A-listers IMDb claims were "considered" for roles), U.N.C.L.E. does make nice use of Hugh Grant as a Brit of eventual importance and, as Solo's boss, Jared Harris, one of many cast members successfully adopting an accent other than their own.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. may not inspire much passion, but it manages to hold your interest and, for the most part, satisfy as one of summer's last servings of popcorn action.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Guy Ritchie: Sherlock Holmes • Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Henry Cavill: Man of Steel • Whatever Works • Stardust | Armie Hammer: The Lone Ranger • Mirror Mirror • J. Edgar
Alicia Vikander: Ex Machina • The Fifth Estate | Elizabeth Debicki: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Hugh Grant: The Rewrite • Four Weddings and a Funeral • Did You Hear About the Morgans? | Jared Harris: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Get Smart • This Means War • The Tourist • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
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Reviewed August 14, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Warner Bros. Pictures, Ritchie/Wigram Productions, Davis Entertainment Productions.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.