In the 1960s, Russia and the USA didn’t exactly get along. Nor do spies, USA’s Napolean Solo (Henry Cavill aka Superman) and Russia’s Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer aka The Lone Ranger). So when a plot is uncovered to turn stolen uranium into nuclear missiles, the necessity of working together doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a smooth ride.
Based on the 1960s TV series, The Man from UNCLE is joining a rather crowded market for ‘re-imagined’ 60s spies: Mission: Impossible started only a few years after UNCLE, and we’re due another outing from the ultimate super-spy, James Bond soon.
UNCLE differentiates itself from those, and other series like Bourne, by taking itself less seriously – but without heading towards spoof like Kingsman (2014) or Spy (2015). And, unlike any of those, this one keeps the 1960s setting – which I loved! Turning this into a period piece works marvelously, particularly with retaining the animosity between the leads as representatives of coldly warring nations.
The casting, however, does seem a little odd to me. Firstly the accents: a Brit playing an American, and an American playing Russian, and a Swede playing a German – oy! It does get just a little messy.
Also, while I really like both the male lead actors, I didn’t really find Cavill arrogant/slimy enough – which is maybe no bad thing, as I never warmed to Robert Vaughn in the original – nor Hammer remotely likely to have psychopathic episodes. The hair colour and height difference (at 6’5, I imagine Armie Hammer towers over most folk, including Superman!) are right, I guess? 😉
And, while the plot is fun – if nothing surprising – the ‘Guy Ritchie’-style (well, he did direct!) with near-immediate flashbacks to give a sense of danger/mystery to a scene before explaining it instantly (see Sherlock Holmes, Snatch, etc) is getting a little cliched.
Overall, though, it was a lot of fun – I was in the mood to lose the stresses of the day, and this had the whole audience chuckling, repeatedly.
Released: 14th August 2015
Watched: 3rd September 2015
Running time: 116 minutes
My rating: 6/10