Retro Repartee

The Man from UNCLE

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani

British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Snatch) reinvents the Cold War spy drama while sticking to its original retro chic with The Man from UNCLE.

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Henry Cavill (Superman) plays Napoleon Solo, who after a stunning chase sequence in East Berlin, reluctantly teams up with Russian KGB agent, Illya wonderfully played by Armie Hammer, complete with dodgy accent and a bad temper.

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Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Gaby who is gallantly rescued from East Berlin by Solo only to become a pawn in a deadly international game of espionage involving chic Italians who are actually Fascists and a desperate search for a nuclear warhead, which is being developed by a glamorous but lethal Italian couple Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (The International) and his vicious wife, Victoria played by Elizabeth Debicki last seen in The Great Gatsby.

Using cool split screen cinematic techniques and an innovative retro-active editing sequence, Ritchie leads the audience on a brilliant dance between espionage, glamour and intrigue, all the usual tropes associated with the hugely successful spy genre: exotic locations, a nefarious villain and a femme fatale who is not what she seems.

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What makes The Man from UNCLE so watchable, is the brilliant onscreen chemistry between Hammer and Cavill, who constantly outdo each other with brawn and wits and naturally are both competing for the affections of the gorgeous yet bold German femme fatale, a role which Alicia Vikander really takes on as her own after playing minor roles in The Fifth Estate and outshining Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

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Watch out for the British charm offensive, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Waverly who is back on form with such witty lines as “For a Special Agent, you are not having such a special day”. The dialogue, action sequences and narrative in Man from UNCLE are all perfectly matched to that early 1960’s spy film, additionally helped by most of the film being set in Rome and the Italian coastline. Even the soundtrack for Uncle is suitably chic, with a couple of sixties Italian songs playing enlivening the amusing action sequences.

The costumes are fabulous, the stunts are brilliantly choreographed and the dialogue is suitably witty with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer on top form as the two leading men who are jostling for their own pride, accomplishments and competitive edge. It’s the clashing egos of Napoleon and Illya which are fun to watch and director Ritchie plays on the actors’ ability to maintain that constant jealousy between the two characters, coloured with retro repartee which creates a dynamic fraternal bond.

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Elizabeth Debicki is suitably sinister, as the slinky yet dangerous Italian enemy. With plentiful historical references of lurking fascism, Cold War paranoia and sixties glam thrown in, the plot of The Man from Uncle never falters, especially from a director who is clearly unafraid to take risks.

The Man from Uncle is highly recommended viewing for those that have enjoyed Ritchie’s earlier commercial successes and also love a witty, retro spy film which is not afraid to poke fun at the genre itself.

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