Death of the Critic

The Man from U.N.C.L.E - A Belated Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


It makes a lot of sense to put Guy Ritchie in charge of a spy movie. He has always loved his surprise twists, clever dialogue, and witty banter. Instead of taking the helm of James Bond, he gets to reimagine the old television series of the same name. Henry Cavill plays the charismatic and cold American spy Napoleon Solo, across from the brooding and emotion Russian Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer. They are brought together through shared conflict and the presence of the East German woman Gaby, portrayed by Alicia Vikander, who they need to help find her father.

The plot itself is rather basic. Enemies from across the Berlin Wall hunting against a common foe, the always despicable Nazis, remnants left over in the aftermath of World War 2. They are attempting to build a nuclear missile, and have kidnapped Gaby’s genius father. So East and West must come together, competing egos as they fight their enemies and each other over a computer disk of advanced nuclear research.

It seems not to matter too much, as it is more of an excuse for Cavill and Hammer to snipe quips back and forth at each other as the audience waits for the seemingly inevitable explosion. In this battle of personalities, Cavill comes out as the clear loser, his character coming off as entirely too arrogant and aloof to the point where I find it hard to sympathize with him. He seems almost stuck up, which is never a good quality in a main character. His character arc can be summed up as him learning to treat Hammer like a human being.

On the other side, Hammer plays a rather compelling character in Illya, which surprised me. He battles his own rage issues and a superiority complex coming from his own broken childhood, with a disgraced father and a mother forced into prostitution. This combines with his complex afeelings for Gaby, balancing his budding romantic inklings with his diehard devotion to his duty, to create a presence that manages to tear up the screen.

The interplay between the two men is what drives the movie forward. Even while I found myself disliking Cavill, I wanted to watch them go back and forth. The twist can be seen coming a mile away, and a surprise visit by Hugh Grant helps cap off the film. It’s a fun movie to while away an afternoon, and it brings back a certain sense of levity that the spy genre has lost recently in their drive to be more gritty.

This title was reviewed before the inception of our current review system and as such is not scored. We still stand by the content of our old reviews.

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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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