27. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (PG-13) - Runtime: 116 minutes
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Guy Ritchie seems to get lost in the shuffle when people mention their favorite directors working today. The dude has done nothing but good films (and yes that includes the two Sherlock Holmes movies which were fantastic) and his take on an obscure TV show from the 60s is one of the best movies of the year so far and turns Henry Cavill into a legitimate Hollywood superstar.
The film is set during 1963 and with that comes along all the tropes of a spy movie from that era - luscious set pieces, great car chases and a very sharp sense of style. The whole film is shot perfectly - from the camera angles, to the costumes to the design work on every scene. It's amazing how distinct this movie looks and feels and it brilliantly captures the 1960s. Or at least, how modern Hollywood sees the 1960s. Henry Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, a thief turned CIA superspy who reluctantly has to team up with a Russian superspy (Armie Hammer) in order to stop some lingering Naht-zi terrorists with an atom bomb. The plot isn't the strong suit of the movie and that's okay because the cast and the jokes and the action all make up for it.
Henry Cavill is good as Superman. But there's a lot of baggage to playing that character, so it's hard to get a gauge on just how well he act. U.N.C.L.E. really lets him loose as he plays a dry-witted playboy who always is two-steps ahead of everyone else in the room. If you don't fall in love with Cavill after this role, you must be a robot. And his chemistry between Hammer is what really makes this movie shine. Hammer is Illya, a towering, hardened Russian spy who has little time for Solo's antics. They're constantly competing and thankfully Alicia Vikander's Gaby is there to diffuse a lot of the tension. She's fantastic in this role as a woman who really doesn't need to be saved by anyone.
The movie does a fantastic job of leveling off the action and drama with a lot of humor - there's a scene where Illya is being chased around on a speedboat while Solo sits back and enjoys a sandwich in a truck as their both trying to escape an enemy facility. And the action is top notch and Ritchie knows when to pull back and not bore us with too much of it. When the military decides to descend upon the enemy's island with full force, Ritchie doesn't bore us with lots of shoot 'em up shots of random goons getting pelted with bullets while they make their way through the island. Instead he creates a fun and criss-crossed montage that only lasts about 30 seconds (with lots of goons getting shot!) but was incredibly fun to watch.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has a fun time honoring the old spy movies of Hollywood while carving out its own special place. One of the best times I had at the theater this year, Ritchie's latest is eminently pleasing with its action and extremely funny - something hard to pull off in perfect doses. I highly, highly recommend checking this one out!
RATING: A PERFECT END TO THE SUMMER