Real people aren’t this beautiful. Aliens must be among us. Charming, seductive, Henry Cavill Kryptonians. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. might just be about a grown man with a My Little Pony obsession and a closet full of catnip; it was so hard to see a plot under the distracting veil of tailored suits and sex appeal. With Cavill and Armie Hammer as your two front men, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. could be about nearly anything and it would still carry the gentle musk of a cowboy-astronaut catching a bullet in his teeth while cradling a baby koala.
As it stands, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. does have an actual plot and it is actually quite interesting. An American spy/thief, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), and a KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), try to conquer 1960s prejudices and team up to protect the East Berlin refugee, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). After a bit of fancy planning, eight-minute-mile sprints, frustrated quibbling, and perfectly drivable classic cars gone to waste, we sit down to a very complicated story about a family tree… with Nazis… and nuclear weapons. The short of it is: Gaby’s long lost father is being forced to build a bomb for a pair of Nazi sympathizers in Rome – one of which is Gaby’s uncle (Sylvester Groth). The Americans and the Russians need Gaby to get close to her uncle so that the agents can get close to the bomb (before it goes boom). The trio must maintain their covers of antiques dealer, architect, and blushing fiancé in order to pull the mission off successfully. Yes siree they are just a plain ‘ole group of rich, talented, stunningly gorgeous nobodies whistling away inconspicuously.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. takes some serious pains to replicate a 1960s setting – in fashion-conscious Italy, no less. The only things equal to the characters’ distractingly good looks and useful but unique set of skills are their wardrobes. Plastic earrings, go-go sunglasses, handbags, audacious makeup, and bold colours are all straight out of that golden era of loop-de-loops and geometric prints. If you’re a spy who has to dress-to-impress, there’s no question that you, like Solo and Illya, would know as much about hand guns as you do about Courrèges and Givenchy. One of the best features in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the constant one-upmanship between Solo and Illya, whether they’re bickering over tactics, wire-cutters, or women’s fashion.
The rivalry between these two has a very Road Runner/Coyote feel to it. Solo and Illya are forced to work together, but gosh darn it if they’ll make it easy for one another. While Solo is carefree and flirtatious, Ilya struggles with a major anger management issue and the desire to plough through a crowd rather than mingle with it. Funnily enough, it’s Ilya who is most affected by the beautiful Gaby.
Both Gaby and Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) — one of the Nazi sympathizers commissioning the bomb — play very skilled, strong, manipulative characters. Gaby can snap her strong-as-steel companions into place with a single line, while Victoria is… well, if I met her and a “thug” in an ally I’d take my chances with the thug.
Of course you can expect plenty of action in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but not of the explosive variety. There’s nothing wrong with munching on a picnic dinner while armed guards chase your unlucky partner around a lake, but the majority of this movie’s action starts with hiding in dark corners. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is closer to a James Bond/Charlie’s Angels hybrid than it is to any other Bourne-like spy movie – mostly because it’s absolutely hilarious. It had me laughing at the banter, gasping at the classic cars, and swooning over the blinding on-screen beauty. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a re-watchable 7.5/10.