The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Parent Review
Obviously desiring to become yet another cinematic franchise, we can only hope a future sequel will find a better balance between comedy and action, or it may be forced to yell "uncle!"
Based on a highly popular television show that ran for four years during the 1960s, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. drops us back into the Cold War. It was a time when secret agents were a mainstay of the political battleground—and the entertainment industry. Considering the frosty relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, U.N.C.L.E.‘s premise of having a U.S. and Soviet spy working together to fight and even bigger enemy was a groundbreaking idea.
The mission of the US agent, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is to find Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a prominent nuclear physicist (Christian Berkel) who has been kidnapped by (or defected to) a mysterious organization. The fear is that the German scientist will share his knowledge about building an atom bomb. If Solo can get the daughter out of East Germany, he should then be able to connect with the father’s brother: Uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth). A former Nazi, Rudi is now working for Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani and Elizabeth Debicki), a power couple whose company is the front for the illegal weapon manufacturing. And it is the Vinciguerra’s who are likely harboring the all-important Dr. Teller.
But in Solo’s efforts to fulfill part one of the complicated plan (rescue the girl), he crosses paths with a KGB operative named Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). It isn’t until after their combative initial meeting that the two discover their respective governments have decided to pair them up. Now they are both on assignment to use Gaby to get to Rudi, who will lead them to Dr. Teller, so they can stop the bomb and his retrieve the scientist’s research notes, in order to save the world from the evil intents of their countries’ mutual foe.
The film spends what feels like an inordinate amount of time bringing the team together, and portraying Solo and Illya’s disgust for each other. Their incessant need to one-up the other generates much of the humor in this action/adventurer as they bicker over competing national interests and who has the best gadgets. In a scene where they need to cut through a chain link fence, Solo shows off a pair of cutters sharpened by an exotic laser with which he can cut through the links. Kuryakin then reveals he has the laser itself, in a pen-like version, and rapidly slices through the barrier. It’s a fun personification of Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy.
However, mixing serious historical elements with comedy can be risky, and this script crosses the line when it presents a former Nazi “doctor” who is now employed to torture captives. With Solo strapped into his electric chair, he administers jolts of power while paging through a photo album of past atrocities he performed on innocent victims during the Hitler era. The distasteful sequence, along with its revengeful conclusion, is decidedly not funny.
Other content concerns include pervasive weapon use, aggressive hand-to-hand combat and onscreen shootings. And, like many other movies in this genre, handsome spies are seemingly expected to bed a few women—one of whom we see nearly naked from the rear and side. Fortunately profanities are relatively infrequent, with a mix of mild curses and some crude anatomical terms.
Perhaps the movie’s most positive attribute is its promotion of the notion that even enemies can work together for the greater good. It offers some interesting plot twists to keep viewers engaged too, although it lacks some inter-character chemistry (like that seen in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which was also directed by Guy Richie). Obviously desiring to become yet another cinematic franchise, we can only hope a future sequel will find a better balance between comedy and action, or else this concept may be forced to yell “uncle!”Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, Armie Hammer. Running time: 117 minutes. Updated May 12, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. here.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Parents Guide
Why were the nations of the world so concerned about each other’s weapons potential? Learn more about the Cold War that resulted from these worries. Do you think this battle is over?
How did television and movie scripts capitalize on the fears of the public during the Cold War? What current events does the media use today?
Solo’s boss, who is obviously struggling with the multi-national nature of his orders, says he tells himself, “Inside every kraut is an American waiting to get out”. What do you think he means? Why are we likely to see every issue from the perspective of our own nationality, rather than from the other’s point of view?
Does this movie try to show some equality between the various characters and the super powers the represent? Does one country still come off looking more like a hero than the other? Why or why not?
This movie is a remake of the 1964 -1968 TV series Man From U.N.C.L.E.