Sixties TV-Series Adapted as Nostalgic Cold War Romp
In the 1960s, the popular television series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ran from 1964 to 1968, on NBC. Following on from the phenomenal success of the James Bond film franchise, it was based around a dashing character created by the author of the 007 novels, Ian Fleming.
Now adapted for the big screen, Napoleon Solo is played by Henry Cavill. Napoleon Solo is a suave, sophisticated spy who works for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, (U.N.C.L.E.), a top secret, international espionage agency.
So far, it sounds like a replay of the TV series, but whereas the original Napoleon Solo was a college graduate, honorably-discharged after the Korean War, the big screen Napoleon is very different. This spy is a convicted art thief, coerced into into becoming a spy in return for a reduced prison sentence.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, better known for over-the-top action adventures, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is much more tame then most things he has done before. Cavill’s co-star, playing KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin, is Armie Hammer. Here is another change from the TV series, something more in line with Guy Richie. Whereas the TV Ilya Kuryakin was a mild-mannered sleuth, on the big screen, he is a hot head who loses his temper at the drop of a hat.
The tale begins in 1963, in East Berlin, and the two spies are on opposite sides. Napoleon Solo has been sent behind the Iron Curtain on a mission to recruit Gaby Teller, played by Alicia Vikander. She is the daughter of a nuclear scientist who has gone missing. It is feared he has feared fallen into the clutches of a crime syndicate seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb. Kuryakin is unable to prevent the extraction, and then he is introduced to his new partner, Napoleon Solo.
Now, the two spies, with Gaby along for the ride, are in a race against time to foil a plot hatched by Victoria Vinciguerra, played by Elizabeth Debicki. She is the brains behind the Italian crime group suspected of kidnapping Gaby’s father.
Unfortunately, this adaptation is too deliberately-paced, and the cat-and-mouse caper is too low-key to generate much edge-of-the-seat tension. With no tension, it pales in comparison to the recent nostalgic homage to Sixties spy flicks, Kingsman.
Even so, it is a passable, nostalgic period piece. It should have create a great intrigue for the audience, but instead, all it does well is to recreate Cold War ambience.
Guy Ritchie did better with Snatch (2000) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive material and partial nudity
In English, German, Russian and Italian with subtitles
Running time:116 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer: