Release Date: 14 August 2015
Running Time: 116 Min
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
Berlin, the early 60s. A handsome, well tailored American approaches checkpoint Charlie to cross the iron curtain into East Germany. Lurking not far behind is a tall, intimidating Russian trying to remain inconspicuous. It’s spy vs spy in Cold War era Europe, a time of sleight of hand, subterfuge and suspicion. However, with the arrival of a sinister organisation linked to the Nazis, these two superpowers and their respective super spies must overcome their mutual mistrust and band together to end this new global threat.
When top CIA agent Napoleon Solo, a man so laid back he coasts rather than walks, first crosses paths with tightly wound KGB super-spy Ilya Kuriyakin, they’re engaged in a cat and mouse battle of wits across Berlin. Both in pursuit of the same woman, the daughter of a renowned Nazi rocket scientist and possibly the only person who can track him down, they engage in a game of one upmanship and assassination attempts that neatly contrasts their equipment and methodology. The central conceit of mismatched partners who gradually come to respect each other is not particularly new, but Cavill as the smooth talking Solo and Hammer as the brooding Kuriyakin are both enormous fun to watch; seeing them try to outdo one another and squabble about who is best at espionage is consistently funny throughout.
With the breezy interplay between its leads and a screen that’s dripping with beautiful people looking stylish in glamorous locations, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is probably closest in tone to Steven Soderbergh’s sleek heist romp Ocean’s Eleven. That it falls short of that movie’s level of wit and entertainment is largely due to a plot that is rigidly formulaic and lacking in any real fizz, content to try and entertain its audience with froth instead.