Hey, don’t look now, but Hollywood took a 60’s television show and made it into a feature-length film! I know, it’s nearly unheard of but I guess they felt like taking a risk! Ok, ok, I won’t go down that route (again). In all seriousness, I’ve read that this was set to be a film for quite some time. The script reportedly sat around for nearly twenty years, was attached to multiple directors and finally saw the light of day when Guy Ritchie stepped in and got Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer to sign on for the lead roles. I’d never seen the short-lived television show from the 60’s but knew the general premise (Cold War). I’m a fan of Guy Ritchie and his films, the soundtrack and pacing of the films really suits my style. Granted Snatch is probably my favorite and I have loved the two Sherlock Holmes films. I kind of wish he’d had made a third instead of this, but I’ll reserve that for later in this review. Nevertheless, this was a late Summer entry so I was curious as to what would happen when The Lone Ranger met Superman. Let’s find out.
A familiar story of spies, disloyalty, twists, double-crossing and a nuclear plot to destroy the globe, the movie hops from Berlin to Rome, taking in other scenic European spots along the way. Henry Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, an American spy and Armie Hammer is Illya Kuryakin – his Russian equivalent. Of course we need a female in the mix because…well, it’s a rule in movies, so throw in Alicia Vikander (in one of her seven screen roles of 2015) for good measure. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.
All this charm is a little surprising considering that on paper its trio of leads, Cavill, Hammer and Vikander, feel as charismatic as cardboard. As it turns out, the two men have an especially sharp rapport, something Ritchie previously conjured up between Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in his Sherlock Holmes films. You wonder if this is what Ritchie is best at now: period action bromances set in cartoon-like worlds just enough removed from our own so that he doesn’t have to bother with subtlety (meaning the mangling of accents, for instance, doesn’t matter). He’s still not great with women – Vikander is a fun presence but ultimately pretty marginal, and at worst, marginal and pretty. While not a total misfire, I found The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to be entertaining, but more on the surface. Think of it as a 007 movie without all the cool gadgets.
Video: How’s it look?
If it’s a visual feast you’re after, I’ll have to say that you need not look any further. Putting aside the two leads (Hammer and Cavill) aren’t exactly hard on the eyes (and this is coming from a heterosexual male), the visuals of Europe and breathtaking to behold. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image simply oozes everything that’s amazing about Blu-ray. Colors pop, detail is razor sharp, the film even seems to have a 3-D’ish quality to it. Even the scenes that take place at night don’t seem to suffer in the least. It’s a visual feast in the style that only Guy Ritchie can provide. And it’s amazing to look at.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Dolby Atmos titles are starting to proliferate and this is the latest to hit the home video market. Again, most aren’t Dolby Atmos capable, so a very robust Dolby TrueHD track is also included. The main thing that I came out of the film with, on the audio front, was the soundtrack. It’s a veritable mix of mariachi-type exuberance mixed with a certain type of flare that makes for a very interesting mix (pardon the pun). I realize that’s probably not the best description, but suffice it to say that the surrounds are almost constantly in motion, vocals are sharp (Hammer’s Russian accent isn’t exactly spot on, but it’s passable) and Cavill does his best American accent. Still, it’s a lively and active track that’s sure to please.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A Higher Class Of Hero – The lone DVD supplement details some of the challenges involved in creating some never-before-seen action sequences.
Spy Vision: Recreating ’60s Cool – The visual look and feel are discussed by Ritchie and Wigram and are joined by costume designer Joanna Johnston as they discuss wardrobe and locations, among other things.
Métisse Motorcycles: Proper-And Very British – Gerry Lisi, owner of Métisse, maker of the motorcycles used in the movie, discusses what makes them so special.
The Guys from U.N.C.L.E. – Essentially these are some brief features on lead actors Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.
A Man of Extraordinary Talents – Same as above, only this focuses on director Guy Ritchie.
U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy – Four very short segments are features, though none of which really offers up too much information about…anything.
Don’t Swim Elegantly
You Want to Wrestle?
A Family Thing
The Bottom Line
Not quite Sherlock Holmes and not quite James Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the long-awaited big screen adaptation of the ’60’s television show. It’s entertaining and has Ritchie’s signature to it for sure. The Blu-ray offers up flawless audio and video qualities and has just enough supplements to warrant a purchase.