The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a thoroughly entertaining spy romp that feels like a throwback to 1960s-era television, which makes perfect sense considering the movie is based on the television series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which ran from 1964-1968 (starring Robert Vaughn and David “Ducky from NCIS!” McCallum). The question is, can a spy movie set against the backdrop of the Cold War compete at the box office with a modern, adrenaline-fueled spy movie like the latest installment of Mission Impossible? I doubt it. HOWEVER, U.N.C.L.E. does have a great deal of charm on its side, effused with great aplomb by Henry Cavill, who proves that he can wear a business suit (and a towel) as well, if not better, than the ‘suit’ he donned for Man of Steel (the 2013 Superman reboot that I quite liked despite its less-than-stellar reviews).
Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, a suave, smart, womanizing CIA agent who is paired with the intense and broody KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) in a joint effort to fight the enemies of peace – that is, when Solo and Kuyakin aren’t busy trying to kill or one-up each other. They are recruited by U.N.C.L.E. – the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement – to stop an international crime circuit from securing nuclear technology that would undermine détente. Their only lead is an alluring East German car mechanic (played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander) whose estranged father, a nuke-savvy scientist, has gone missing.
The interactions among the trio – and with their arch-nemesis, played with fashionable flare by Elizabeth Debicki – are fun to watch. It’s all very “James Bond light” (note: Ian Fleming created the character of Napoleon Solo as a small-screen version of his iconic 007). The Man From U.N.C.L.E. may be hard-pressed to find an audience beyond nostalgic boomers and spy-movie buffs, but it’s a solid flick with a pleasant mix of action, pseudo-romance, humor, and drama. After all, world peace is at stake here! And did I mention that Henry Cavill is downright mesmerizing as Solo? File this one under sophisticated eye candy.