I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of spy movies. The genre has become cliché with the same plot points and elements appearing over and over again, from films like James Bond to Mission Impossible. I really can’t take these movies too seriously anymore, but lucky for me, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. offers a well-balanced design of action, humour, espionage, and most importantly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The premise of the film isn’t new. The audience is thrown into the midst of the Cold War after the opening sequence bombards us with historical footage of the Second World War and the rise of the Soviet Union. The basic premise of the film is that East and West must work together to stop a nuclear threat. While the opening bit itself is masterfully done, it’s unnecessary since many films take place in this time period (we get it! It’s typically Russia versus the US and nuclear war is a constant threat! We can’t trust anyone!). However, I can accept the time period because 1) the film is based on a television show from the 1960s and 2) the costumes throughout are phenomenal! There’s less than a handful of movies were I’m blown away by the costume design, and this is one of them. The combination of the well-tailored American suit, Eastern European turtleneck and newsboy cap combo, and of course the outrageously colourful 60s outfits of the three main characters is a delight to behold. Honestly, I distracted by the outfits – but in a good way! The whole film is pleasing to the eye in general.
The storyline itself isn’t exactly compelling but manages to stay intriguing and well-paced throughout. It’s the ensemble of characters that keep the story going. No character is truly as they appear, so it makes for a fun guessing game to speculate everyone’s motives – even the three protagonists. The shenanigans the unlikely trio get into in various European destinations is what makes the audience feel invested in the story. The chemistry between Henry Cavill, Armnie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander makes us root for them as a team, even if they’re not the nicest of people. Their performances are enough to forgive the film for not having enough of Hugh Grant in it.
I can’t say this movie isn’t as clichéd as other spy films, but the presentation is more entertaining primarily through dialogue, action sequences, and the film knowing it’s not a serious spy movie. The comedy aspect and excellent performances is really what makes the film stand out even more though. It’s the perfect balance between contrasting elements, much like the film Snatch (also directed by Guy Ritchie), which will make me more than happy to rewatch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. anytime.