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By Daniel Lammin
16th December 2015

With so many great films this year, it was inevitable that a few little gems were going to slip through the cracks. For me, it turns out one of those is a film I was genuinely excited to see but never got around to. From the trailers, Guy Ritchie’s film version of the beloved 60s TV series ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ looked like a lot of fun, full of breezy action and a terrific cast, but it seemed to disappear pretty much instantly. It’s a great pity, because the film not only met my expectations, but thoroughly exceeded them.

Set during the height of the Cold War, the film throws CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) together with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), mortal enemies from either side of the Berlin Wall. They’re forced to work together to protect young mechanic Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and help her track down her uncle, who holds the secret to a nuclear bomb currently in the hands of mysterious millionaire Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki).

Having scored a surprising hit in his transition to Hollywood with the Sherlock Holmes films, Ritchie brings his frenetic and imaginative humour to ‘U.N.C.L.E’ with glorious success, revelling in the style and energy of the 60s setting. The screenplay cracks with wit and wisely spends more time on character than complicated narrative pyrotechnics. The plot is a tad ridiculous but that’s the point, a piece of spy fantasy set against the best of backdrops for such a story. In many ways, ‘U.N.C.L.E’ is an antidote to the gritty realism of Bourne and current Bond, a piece of giddy escapism populated by men in tailored suits, women in stunning dresses and thrilling Cold War espionage. It’s bright, bouncy and brimming with energy, Ritchie and his team having a ball playing with the many tools of visual storytelling at their disposal. Of all the technical elements though, the production design and costume design win hands down, Oliver Scholl and Joanna Johnston each nailing their idealised 60s style. It’s less a vision of the 60s as history as much as a vision of it through its film and popular culture, and it just adds to the tremendous enjoyment of the film.


The cast are also pitch perfect. It’s so wonderful to see Henry Cavill this relaxed and at ease, oozing with his natural charm and showing off his terrific comic timing. Armie Hammer is also a joy to watch, the stoic brick wall to Cavill’s slimy charmer. Rounding off the trio is the always wonderful Alicia Vikander who skewers any ideas that Gaby is a damsel in distress. All three have the most wonderful chemistry with one another, and collide against each other with pure electricity. Elizabeth Debicki continues her rise in profile with the delectably wicked Victoria, and rounding of the ensemble are Jared Harris, Hugh Grant and Luca Calvani.

This has been a wonderful year for the spy film, and that was long before the latest Bond film turned up. Coupled with ‘Kingsmen: The Secret Service’ and ‘Spy’, ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ completes a neat little trilogy of films that both riff on and celebrate the genre. This is a giddy pleasure of a film, stylish and witty and action-packed in all the right ways. In the midst of all these gritty and obnoxious blockbusters, it comes as a breath of fresh air. I could not have enjoyed it more.

In many ways, ‘U.N.C.L.E’ is an antidote to the gritty realism of Bourne and current Bond, a piece of giddy escapism populated by men in tailored suits, women in stunning dresses and thrilling Cold War espionage.

Roadshow have gifted ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ a glorious presentation on Blu-ray, beginning with the beautiful 1080p 2.40:1 transfer. It’s crystal clear and razor sharp, but what impresses most of all are the vibrant colours that pop from the screen. There’s so much detail in the design of the film, and the transfer really shows this off. The film also comes with a Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 track, as clear and impressive as the video. There’s a lot going on aurally with this film, especially with Daniel Pemberton’s playful and jazzy score, but the track is beautifully balanced so that it never overwhelms. Overall, a beautiful presentation for a terrific film.

‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ comes with a small but solid collection of extras that give a good overview of the production. ‘Spy Vision: Recreating 60s Cool’ (8:34) looks at the production design and how the 60s style was executed. The action sequences are covered in ‘A Higher Class of Hero’ (7:13), while Armie Hammer looks at the iconic motorcycles used in the film with ‘Métisse Motorcycles: Proper - and Very British’ (4:49). ‘The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.’ (4:57) covers the casting of Cavill and Hammer (though weirdly not Vikander or Debicki), and Richie gets a profile in ‘A Man of Extraordinary Talents’ (3:16). Rounding off the set is ‘U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy’ (5:16), a series of shorts that look at key moments in the making of particular sequences.

RUN TIME: 1h 56m
CAST: Henry Cavill
Armie Hammer
Alicia Vikander
Elizabeth Debicki
Jared Harris
Hugh Grant
DIRECTOR: Guy Richie
WRITERS: Guy Richie
Lionel Wigram
Lionel Wigram
John Davis
Steve Clarke-Hall
SCORE: Daniel Pemberton
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