Okay, I’ll admit it. I was primarily interested in this movie because of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer’s bromance. I didn’t know jack about the TV series or what the movie was even about. Guy Ritchie has proven to be a comrade in the army of shippers (Sherlock Holmes, anyone?), so I was down to watch it the moment I saw the first trailer. I mean, come on. Wrestling in the men’s washroom? SOLD.
Henry Cavill is Napoleon Solo, a charming Lothario with a set of skills James Bond would be jealous of. Blackmailed into service for the CIA due to his criminal background, he’s tasked to perpetrate America’s underhanded moves against post-war Europe. We’re first introduced to him as he breaks Gabrielle Teller (played by the wonderfully sophisticated Alicia Vikander) out of East Germany, as her father was a key component in the creation of the nuclear bomb during WWII.
Their escape attempt is very nearly thwarted by the equally handsome and talented Russion spy, Ilya Kuryakin (the freakishly tall Armie Hammer*). Even though Solo and Gabby escape by the skin of their teeth, they haven’t seen the last of Ilya yet. Solo is forced to partner up with the Russian spy to infiltrate a criminal organization headed by incredibly fabulous, but horrendously evil Victoria Vinciguerra, who is supposedly using Gaby’s father for her own nefarious purposes.
Honestly, I can’t be objective. As a person who sees the gay lining in every movie ever, the shining star has to be Solo and Ilya’s bromance. Move aside, Gaby and nameless naked woman! Every scene they appeared in together was filled with sparkling chemistry and charisma. I knew Armie had the comedic chops in him (The Lone Ranger wasn’t THAT bad), but it was really refreshing to see Henry shed his serious exterior and go for something a little less so. Scenes like Solo casually eating a sandwich as Ilya gets chased around by armed thugs, or them bickering about which dresses Gaby would look better in made my night. They played off of each other incredibly well (ahem), and also did great as individual characters.
And where would we be without the ladies? Alicia Vikander is phenomenal as always. Even though she’s a complete waif, she still carries this “I could castrate you with my bare hands” kind of attitude that I adore. She was a German mechanic, after all. Her little romantic side story with Ilya (he was her fake undercover fiancé, they shared a room, you do the math) felt surprisingly organic, and was a great source of comedy and tension. It also warmed my heart to see Ilya, who had such a tortured past, be protective and kind towards Gaby – who could totally hold her own, but that’s not the point.
She later reveals herself to be a British spy and the trio come together to form the eponymous international secret agency with the codename U.N.C.L.E., or as you and I might call it The Most Fabulously Dressed Secret Agents Ever.
As great as the characters were, the plot was a lacklustre in comparison. It wasn’t exactly treading new ground with the whole evil criminal organization trying to start a nuclear war while trying to make shit tons of money off of it shebang. Then you add the handsome heroes and the femme fatale, and you’ve got yourself just another spy flick. However, it was undoubtedly saved by the stylistic elements of the 60s, the clever humour, and the charming characters with intriguing backgrounds. Thank you, Guy Ritchie, for your wonderfully palatable and rewatchable movies.
In all seriousness, Solo and Ilya’s “friendship” and fascinating backstories left a lot of potential for sequels. So, come on, Guy Ritchie. Either give us Sherlock Holmes 3, or Man from UNCLE 2. Your pick!
* side note: Armie Hammer is 6’5. He made Henry Cavill (who’s 6’1) look like a munchkin in comparison.