Everybody needs an UNCLE
Spies like them
It is the early 1960s and the world is full of spies. Gary Powers and his U-2 spy plane were shot down over the Soviet Union (1960), Kelly and Scott have teamed up (1965), Our man Flint is on the case (’67), as is Matt Helm (’67), and of course Col. Nick Fury (’65), and many others as well, but today, we are talking about our Uncle. No, not our Dutch Uncle, but the man (men and women) from U.N.C.L.E. — United Network Command for Law and Enforcement). Yes, children, we are talking about Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. Napoleon (a CIA operative) and Ilya (who worked for the KGB) and how they ultimately came together to work for the United Nations for the greater good of the world (not national security, but global security).
The original cast
What came before
In 2015, director Guy Ritchie relaunched this iconic TV series as a big screen event film, and giving us back a sense of what it was like to be a (cinematic) spy in the ‘60s. To be sure, the tale that Richie tells isn’t quite the one that we learned back in ’65, but still, it is a wondrous tale to behold. Back then, when we met Napoleon and Ilya, they were already working together as partners. Here we learn how that partnership came to be.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer
As stated, it is the ‘60s and the CIA has sent agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) to bring in the mechanic Gaby Teller (Vikander) from East Berlin to our side of the wall. Gaby, as it turns out, is the daughter of the scientist and American collaborator, Udo Teller (Christian Berkel), that defected from Germany at the end of WWII and now has vanished. In turn, they are chased by KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) but they escape. Soon Solo’s chief, Saunders discloses that Gaby’s uncle Rudi works for the wealthy Alexander and his wife Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and Udo might be secretly building a nuclear weapon for them. Hence, Solo is forced to team-up with Illya and Gaby as they head off to Rome to investigate.
The New Crew
Richie manages to deliver a film that is not only respectful of the source material (while adding back stories to both Napoleon and Ilya, and not screwing with the formula of the original series as so many TV to film remakes so often do). Here we get depictions of these marvelously classic characters that (mostly) align to what we best recall for their halcyon days on TV. Yes, not caricatures to be laughed at, but actual heroes who are struggling against forces that would decimate our world as well as their own governments who would pit us against each other for their own nefarious ends.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
So yes, while we totally did enjoy this retro-fitted romp down memory lane, we do understand that changers were made to what we were watching and what we remembered. Still, as the spirit of what U.N.C.L. E. was clearly alive and ascendant in the film, we truly did so not only enjoy it but recommend it as well. Perhaps our only real disappointment was the las of cameos by Robert Vaughn, David McCallum (who played Solo and Kuryakin in the TV show).