“This is not how we do things in Russia.”
Spies. They are a necessary, but glamourous evil; tools to be used at the beckoning of an unforgiving agency. James Bond proved it. Austin Powers lived it. Jason Bourne was the result of it. And then, there was “The Man From U. N. C. L. E.”, a 1960s television show about a Cold War-era international intelligence agency’s efforts to stop clandestine operations, developed by Sam Rolfe.
Guy Ritchie brings an updated version of The Man from U. N. C. L. E. to the big screen with Henry Cavill as CIA operative Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Russian KGB operative Illya Kuryakin.
The screenplay by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (story by Ritchie, Wigram, Jeff Kleeman and David C. Wilson), is a stylishly witty spy thriller, fabulous heist, and delirious comedy. The lack of a specific genre is also its Achilles heel. Cavill came off as Clark Kent-ish rather than Napoleon Solo while Hammer shined. Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Hugh Grant round out a lively cast.
Production values are where the movie shines. Director of Photography John Mathieson and Set Designer Oliver Scholl captured the tense atmosphere of 1960s Cold War Germany, especially during the night shots. CGI work was used effectively. Mathieson and Scholl also captured the beauty of Rome and an Italian hotel. Daniel Pemberton’s score is a riot, supporting the cast and locations. Ennio Morricone and Hugo Montenegro’s music was used in certain scenes lending a humorous spaghetti western feeling to the movie.
We may all spy on each other, but its the style that counts. Even though it is not as strong as it aimed to be, this U. N. C. L. E. with its British sensibilities, is acerbically stylish and is recommended.