Warner Bros. Man from U.N.C.L.E. is Henry Cavill’s first new movie since making such a big splash in 2013 and so we were excited to attend an advanced press screening at the elegant SoHo House in Los Angeles, which made sense given the stylish sensibility of the movie. Set in the 60s, the film pairs up two unlikely agents — Henry Cavill as CIA operative Napoleon and Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.
I’m glad to say that Henry pulls it off with humor, wit, and panache to bring the character from the television show to life. We had the good fortune to interview Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo from the TV show and he mentioned to me that the movie would need humor to work… and it has it in spades. Armie Hammer plays Kuryakin as more of a straight man to Cavill’s smarmy Solo, but both characters share a witty banter that works well and is a highlight of the movie. Henry is actually very funny and conveys so much with facial expressions and body language alone. There is one scene in particular where Solo has been ejected from a boat driven by Hammer’s Kuryakin and finds his way to a nearby truck that just happens to contain a lunchbox. Cavill casually enjoys a sandwich and bit of wine while his KGB partner makes loops around the harbor under heavy gunfire until eventually deciding to help him out. It is a scene that elicited much laughs from the audience and Henry managed to do it all without speaking any words.
Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby), Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) and Hugh Grant (Love Actually) round out a good looking cast and they all play off Henry very well. We particularly enjoyed the witty banter back and forth between Cavill and Debicki, who share a lot of screen time together. The verbal sparring with Solo’s boss, Sanders, played by Harris, is also amusing. We particularly enjoyed one scene where Napoleon recounts to Sanders about his first encounter with Illya Kuryakin, describing him as “not human” after the KGB agent runs after Cavill and Alicia Vikander’s characters in an intricate car chase scene early in the movie. Kuryakin catches up to them and rips the trunk off the car and throws it at them as they escape down the street. Sanders responds to his whining simply by saying “grow a spine, Solo!”
Director Guy Ritchie has infused the movie with fashion, style and a certain feeling of 60s hipness that makes it a visual treat, not just for the handsome leading men, but for the clothes, cars and scenery. The suits are sharp and the lady’s outfits colorful and fun. Henry Cavill always looks amazing in tailored suits and we were not disappointed. Ritchie puts Cavill in a range of outfits, from fashionable bespoke suits to black commando outfits.
Music is also an important part of making a modern movie, but setting it in the 60s. Daniel Pemberton’s score manages to call back to the original show (and Jerry Goldsmith’s theme) as well as the other cool television shows of the time — lots of drums and guitar with a Cuban flair. There are plenty of pop songs to liven up the music and you will most likely find yourself humming along to “Jimmy, Renda, se” by Tom Ze and Valdez. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll recognize it as the music that plays in the trailer during a car chase scene between Kuryakin and Solo as well as the music that automatically plays when you visit the official Man From U.N.C.L.E. website. The soundtrack is available now on Amazon and features 24 tracks (17 written by Pemberton). We have an interview with Pemberton as well as a giveaway of copies of the soundtrack.
The movie packs plenty of action, with chase scenes in cars, boats, Land Rovers and even on Vespa’s. There is fighting and gunfire and a few plot twists thrown in for good measure. We know Henry can do action (see Immortals, Cold Light of Day, Man of Steel, etc.), but it’s good to see that he can do comedy as well.
Overall, it’s a fun movie. It attempts to emulate the style of what was acceptable on-screen in the 60s. Hopefully today’s sensory overload movie-watching crowd will appreciate the subtleties and more slow-moving parts of the movie. Fans of Guy Ritchie will like the signature look to the movie (highly stylized with some scenes taking on an almost comic book panel look) and Henry Cavill fans will enjoy seeing him in a less serious role that he pulls of spectacularly despite the lack of shirtless or on-screen sex scenes.
If this film is a litmus test for whether or not Henry can carry a film where he’s not a superhero or action star, then he has passed with flying colours. While those of us who watched him play Charles Brandon over four seasons of The Tudors know he can act, those new fans of his from the Man of Steel will appreciate a whole new side of Henry Cavill that they may not have seen before. Let’s hope that with everything going for this film, it does well at the box office and we see Henry and Armie back in another Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie soon!
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” opens Friday, August 14, 2015.
A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, a Ritchie/Wigram Production, a Davis Entertainment Production, a Guy Ritchie Film, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
This film has been rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.