It was thrilling to even think of a spy and espionage thriller painted in Guy Ritchie-style. That is exactly what Man from U.N.C.L.E is. A la James Bond thriller with Ritchie’s subtle yet on your face humor and action sprinkled all over it. The fast cuts, the thumping background score and the thrilling action are all there. To spice it up, you have the “Man of Steel” himself kicking ass and giving him more than able company is the “Lone Ranger”. How could this film go wrong? Yes! It could if all the elements were not handled in an astute manner. Ritchie however as we know him is not the man to make that mistake. He takes a not so exciting story and turns it on its head thanks to his signature style and treatment which more than makes up for the lack in terms of the story.
The film starts off by introducing us to Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) a CIA operative who is on a mission to save and then recruit Gaby (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a nuclear scientist who has gone missing and is possibly working for a shady organization that plans world dominion. Gaby is supposed to infiltrate the organization through his uncle who is an important member of it’s front and gradually work her way into meeting her father. However he receives steep competition in extracting her from his KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) who tries everything he can to stop him from recruiting Gaby. Solo succeeds. However, the Russian and Americans believe that this is a mission which cannot be handled by one party alone. Hence Illya and Solo are teamed up with Gaby as their prized possession to track down the criminal masterminds.
As is the case with all Guy Ritchie films, the editing and the highly stylized presentation of the narrative takes you in immediately. Cavill has a charm to himself which he uses proficiently but he makes it a point to ensure that he does so sparingly. Armie essays the Russian in great style. His deadpan humor and his constant competition with Cavill in terms of gadgets, technology and physical prowess is amusing to watch. He works up a fine chemistry with Cavill and by the time the film ends the two make an almost awesome team. Vikander has an interesting role. She seems to be the weak and tormented among the two alpha males but her character has many facets to it as is revealed later. Elizabeth Debicki is perfectly hateable as the prime antagonist.
There are many action sequences and they are all well done. The scene where Solo and Illya infiltrate the facility where they think the bomb might be is a treat to watch. The climatic finale is also well done. The scene where Solo drives through a water body using a modified jeep is brilliant to look at. The first action scene involving the extraction of Gaby by Solo is sensationally done. Humor which is such an important ingredient in almost all Guy Ritchie films finds its way into the narrative of this film as well. The best thing about the humor is that it is done keeping in mind the serious nature of the content and at no instance it overtakes that seriousness. The scene with the two agents bugging each other was a treat.
On the negative side the film’s story lacks the depth and content that we had in the Sherlock films by Ritchie. While the same cannot be expected here, the director could have done with a little more in terms of story and plot twists. It would be wrong to say that there is no plot twists, but they are few and far apart. Also the trademark Guy Ritchie style of having multiple subplots each running criss-cross into one another which I have admired over the years is missing. This film is fairly simple and straightforward in its treatment and style. This could be a contributing factor for many to be able to understand the film better and hence enjoy it more. While for Ritchie fans, this could be a slight deterrent as we want more food for thoughts.
Overall, The Man from U.N.CL.E is a solid entertainer. It can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone who is willing to put his mind in. It doesn’t have the sort of action and mayhem that we expect from the Bond films but this one more than makes up for in style and treatment. The end of the film gives indication of sequels to come which I feel will be more exciting primarily because of the reason that the basic premise is set now and now Ritchie can play with other elements of the spy genre and take the drama wherever he wants. In the meantime watch this one.