The remake of the original tv show, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as US Agent Napoleon Solo and the Soviet operative Illya Kuryakin respectively, brought a lot of laughs, and a lot of good old fashioned spy antics…
Having any knowledge of the tv show is unnecessary for the film, as it introduces the premise and concepts throughout the film. The opening credits begin with a brief history lesson through historical footage and explain that the film takes place in the 1960’s, Kennedy is president of the United States, and Khrushchev is in charge behind the Iron Curtain. Germany is split in two halves and we see Napoleon, played by Henry Cavill (yes the new/current Superman) crossing from the US controlled Berlin to the Soviet controlled Berlin to seek out a woman named Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander. Before she can agree to anything, a Soviet Operative named Illya, played by Armie Hammer is on their tail to apprehend Gaby.
In an effort to stop Nazis from getting a nuclear bomb Illya and Napoleon are forced to work together by their handlers at the CIA and KGB. They need Gaby’s help for the mission to succeed.
The characters are hysterically funny, and they really drive the relatively simple plot. The film is subtle and obvious in its humor and knows exactly where to be bold and where to keep it down. The humor is the best part of this film. While the situation is serious the movie is not as much and at times the bickering between the characters is more entertaining than the plot. We liked the characters and we liked their interactions. The acting is excellent Hammer and Cavill played off each other well and Vikander gives a great performance leading us to a couple of twists in the plot.
I applaud any movie that doesn’t butcher a foreign language and there are four languages heard in this film. The obvious ones are English, Russian and German, with the less obvious one being Italian. Armie Hammer has Ukranian ancestry and the few times he spoke Russian he did it relatively well. His handler was played by a Russian actor named Misha Kuznetsov. This shows the care and detail that went into this movie. They wanted to go for the authentic Russian, not a knock off Russian.
Speaking of details, the crew of the show deserve some major praise for creating a believably 60’s atmosphere, from Gabi’s clothes, to the technology of the era, to the beautiful, beautiful cars that are seen throughout, including plenty of not American cars. Seeing as how this movie takes place in Europe it was pleasant to see and drool over classic European cars from the era.
Now for some problems, as no film is perfect and despite how truly entertaining the film is, the ending is sadly the weakest part of the film. A few of the scenes, particularly the three vehicle chase scene was confusing to follow and poorly edited. The ending felt a bit rushed, but is likely due to the fact that they had to hurry to finish, since Cavill moved right onto filming Batman v Superman.
The film lives up to the original of the TV Show without trying to be the TV show. These are different actors and different styles, but the magic is there. David McCallum himself has seen the film and has given his seal of approval, saying “[They] have produced a wonderful, exciting movie that in no way encroaches into what we did back in the ’60s and at the same time, uses a lot of elements that Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe created within the old ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Source
If he enjoyed it, odds are those who loved the original show, and those who just love the classic spy genre will too.
Overall Rating, a very solid: