Film Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander. Directed by Guy Ritchie.

Just when you thought you’d seen enough spy films – and there have been a stack released this year – Guy Ritchie unloads his reboot of the 1960s television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Obviously fifty years on, this is going to need to be a sharp reboot to suit a modern audience, and Ritchie manages to pull this off, with excellent throwbacks to a time when particular international relations were rather tense.

The film is set in East Berlin in 1963, where American spy Napoleon Solo (it’s unconfirmed if he is the brother of Han or not – but he does ooze a similar charisma) meets up with Gabby (Vikander), a mechanic whose father – a Nazi scientist who worked for the U.S. government – has disappeared. They are soon hunted down in a fun, old-school chase by Illya Kuryakin (Hammer). The irony is, that Solo and Kuryakin are to be new partners to together track down a computer disk, but both of their respective government agencies want the data contained on it.

U.N.C.L.E. is a serious hark back to the days when spy movies reflected what was happening in the world at the time: particularly political turmoil, and government distrust. Ritchie has created a film that could easily have been released in the 60s too – the car chases are legitimate – no special effects here – and the gadgets are particularly lo-fi. No high tech trickery or 007 invisible cars in sight.

The story itself isn’t hugely entertaining, but it’s hard not to be wooed by the style stamped all over the film. The fashion is super cool, the soundtrack matches the era (and features more jazz flute than an Anchorman film), and the shots of Italy are stunning. I didn’t think Cavill and Hammer’s odd couple chemistry worked; but Ritchie made up for it by comical moments in the background of a few scenes.

U.N.C.L.E. gets its drive from putting two unlikely agents from the CIA and KGB together. On paper, the two should be enemies, and it’s the goal of gaining the computer disk that brings them together. This is a bit like the church as we see it today. People from different backgrounds, nations and cultures come together with a combined purpose – and that comes from being in Christ. Ephesians 2:14 says this of Jews and Gentiles:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

Through Jesus, people are saved from every tribe and nation – and are joined together by God to be his people. Barriers are broken down, and we are able to share in fellowship together. Solo and Kuryakin have very different backgrounds, but it’s their united purpose that brings them closer together.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a solid effort from Guy Ritchie, although the story made it an enjoyable, yet forgettable experience. I’m giving it three-and-a-half stars.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is in cinemas now.

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