The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a stylish throwback to both a time period, a global conflict, a style, a setting and a television show that I doubt many people remember or care about at the moment.
Despite a clear desire to make a decent homage, this film ends up only mediocre at the end, as nothing really comes together to distinguish it from similar post-Bond spy capers.
In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) rescues Gaby Teller, the daughter of a famed scientist who has been kidnapped by neo-Nazis intent on building up a nuclear arsenal. The extent of the threat is so great that they must both team up with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin and save the world on behalf of both the USA and USSR.
Despite Teller being present as a love interest, the film is clearly designed to be a constant “will they, won’t they” between the two bickering, divided male leads. The problem with this is that both sadly aren’t very charismatic in this film, despite their best attempts. They both seem almost bored at times, as though they see through the whole façade of this wild ‘60s romp. I don’t actually think I’ve seen any film in which either of them show a great deal of charisma, so maybe that’s just how they are.
The best parts of the film probably come from Ritchie, who as a director does actually have a good eye for action scenes and for blending comedy into the mix in an organic way. I think here he got a little bogged down by the PG-13 summer blockbuster framing of the whole thing, but elements of what he is best at shine through. It’s also probably the simplest of all his films, which at best are wonderful interconnected pieces, but at worst are overcomplicated messes.
Personally, I enjoyed the recent Kingsman a lot more than this film, and I think it hit many of the same targets but more successfully. This film is nostalgia for an audience that isn’t really there anymore, and as such is destined to retreat into obscurity. It’s fun but forgettable.