The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Based on: the TV series from the 60s
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris
Seen on: 25.8.2015
CIA Agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is tasked with finding a scientist who had been working on nuclear technology and has been missing for many years. Now there are rumors that he is being used to create a superweapon. The only way Solo may be able to find him is through the scientist’s daughter, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). Just as he approaches her, Solo realizes that the KGB had the same idea and sent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) after Gaby. They manage to escape – only to find themselves being forced to work together to prevent the nuclear weapon falling into the hands of a private organization.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and stylish film. It wasn’t partiuclarly smart, but that was neither expected nor necessary in this case.
There are two regrets I have about the film: one, even though I loved the cast, I would have loved it even more if they had actually managed to find native speakers for the roles. Armie Hammer’s Russian isn’t bad, at least not to my untrained ears, but Alicia Vikander’s German was rather heavily accented and that was kinda weird. And two, even though the film very much flirts (no pun intended) with the homoeroticism between Napoleon and Illya and quietly subverts a few gender stereotypes with all three main characters, they never use that strong basis to explicitly queer the film. And I would have loved a poly romance between the three of them a whole lot. If ever there was a film that begged for a positive love triangle, this was it.
But since there are rarely any films that allow themselves to queer it up as much as this one did, I’ll take what I can get and enjoy the implications of it all. There is much to enjoy anyway, with or without queer content. Starting with the wonderful chemistry Vikander, Hammer and Cavill have with each other and the general feeling that the people involved in the film just had a whole lot of fun.
Add to that that this is a film that looks astonshingly well regarding costumes and general production design. The camera work is mostly pretty good as well, only in the final showdown it gets so confusing that I couldn’t tell anymore how the island it happened on was structured and who was where during the chase – which is rather disappointing since the editing in Guy Ritchie movies is usually better.
But compared to the fun I generally had with the film, the camera blunders are peanuts. It’s nice to see a spy film that is character driven, funny on purpose (and even using visual jokes) and still a decent action film. A rare combination – and one that I appreciate the more for it.