by Rebecca Rehm
In the parade of blockbuster spy movies rolling through theaters this year, it might be easy to miss something with less name recognition—something like “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a film adaptation of a 1960s television show. But while it may not have had the promotional blitz that surrounds every new James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a fun, retro counterpart to the usual brand of sleek spy thriller and is still well worth seeing.
The film opens on CIA operative Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) extracting a mechanic named Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) from Soviet-controlled East Berlin. Solo’s superiors believe that Teller is the key to tracking down her estranged father: “Hitler’s favorite rocket scientist,” Dr. Udo Teller. Dr. Teller defected to the United States at the end of World War II, but had since disappeared—and, the CIA fears, fallen into company with an international crime organization that wants him to build atomic bombs.
To face the threat, the CIA and KGB form a reluctant partnership to the threat, forcing Solo on an undercover mission with Gaby Teller and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), an intimidating KGB agent who tried to kill him the day before. Their respective organizations give them the same mission: locate and rescue Dr. Teller with the help of his daughter, retrieve his research on atomic bombs and kill the other agent if necessary.
The premise sounds serious, but the fun is in watching complete opposites Solo and Kuryakin grumpily try to work together. At one point, they accidentally run into each other while breaking into the same building and spend the rest of the scene sarcastically applauding the other’s technique.
All this is not to say that Gaby Teller is just a side character to their shenanigans. She is just as much a main character as Solo and Kuryakin, and—surprisingly, for a spy movie—is not a damsel in distress or disposable love interest for the men to fight over. Teller is smart, tough and better at keeping her cover than both her companions. It was refreshing to find that both Teller and Victoria Vinciguerra, the elegant-but-terrifying villain, were not defined by their relationships to the men of the movie, but were independent and driven by their own motivations—and secrets.
All in all, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is an enjoyable movie, despite mixed reviews.Other critics have called it frothy and flashy, a weak attempt at being a “real” spy movie, but I don’t think they get it. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is not trying to be a James Bond film—it’s supposed to be a vibrant, fun movie that is a nod to the campy spy movies of the 1960s. It doesn’t have layers of dark intrigue or ultra-high-tech gadgets, but it doesn’t need it.
Review Rating: 4.5/5
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2015
Rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy