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Trivia / Goofs
Summary / Analysis
Times of India
It is 1963 and the Cold War between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is at its height. Despite these diplomatic tensions, an agent from each of these countries - Napoleon Solo (Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) - have to work together to stop a shadowy group from getting their hands on a nuclear warhead.
First off, it's important to note that this movie is actually based on a popular US TV show from the post-World War II era. Back then, the spy genre seemed especially relevant given the tensions between the USA and the USSR and so, made great fodder for primetime TV. However Guy Ritchie has now updated the story line and infused it with a wry and dry sense of humour along with a generous dose of wittiness, all the while keeping the Cold War backdrop as a present-but-distant sideline.
Cavill is a former rogue-turned-CIA operative who has to work with KGB sleuth Illya to thwart race car driver Alexander (Calvani) and his impossibly beautiful wife Victoria's (Debicki) radioactive ambitions, so to speak.
The movie borrows from the buddy cop genre too, in the sense that you have two very competent but rival individuals who find themselves lassoed together in order to achieve a common objective.
Ritchie lets Cavill and Hammer have their day in the sun, with the film being buoyed by a slick script and hyper-stylish visuals. It's the kind of cinematic romp that 007 would have traded in one of his fancy wristwatches to earn a cameo in. Hugh Grant - that master of dry Brit wit - as a spy boss is also delightful here. Speaking of Bond, Cavill does his best to out-Bond James Bond and arguably (as well as surprisingly) succeeds, as the super-suave spy.
Illya, every inch the ruthless Russian tough-guy spy is initially at loggerheads with his political rival but soon develops a healthy respect for Solo. They realize that they can achieve more while working in sync, in an atmosphere devoid of mutual suspicion. This U.N.C.L.E is effortlessly cool. Go see it.
Producer and co-screenwriter Lionel Wigram is reunited with Ritchie following a successful partnership on the equally genre-blurring “Sherlock Holmes” films. “One of the ways we put our own spin on it was by making it an origin story about how U.N.C.L.E. was formed,” he says. “In the series, U.N.C.L.E. already existed. So in the midst of the Cold War you had the CIA and KGB secretly teaming for the greater good at a time when East-West relations were at their absolute worst. How did such an alliance come about?”
Gaby Teller, a whip-smart East German auto mechanic played by Alicia Vikander, who is also the estranged daughter of Dr. Udo Teller, once Hitler’s favorite rocket scientist. Doc Teller has lately gone missing, launching both world powers into a race to find him before his very specific and very dangerous knowledge is channeled into weaponry that could obliterate whole countries. And Gaby may be the only bait that can flush him out.
As film fans will attest, that’s another hallmark of the director’s work. In much the same way the “Sherlock Holmes” films took audiences into Victorian London without losing the edge that made them so sharp and current, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” distills everything that made the 1960s cool – from its art, fashion and music, to its attitudes and perspectives – into a spot- on but understated vibe that is both retro and undeniably 21st century.
“What I remember most about the series was its tone,” Ritchie reflects. “And when the opportunity arose for me to make the movie, that’s what inspired me. The idea of ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ just rang a bell for me. I had an intuitive response to it.”
Tom Cruise had earlier been roped in to play the role of Napoleon Solo but he later dropped out to focus on Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
U.N.C.L.E. is a acronym for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.
Armie Hammer watched the show before shooting but Henry Cavill did not.
Steven Soderbergh, originally supposed to direct, backed out due to differences with the studio.
In 1963, professional thief turned CIA agent Napoleon Solo extracts Gaby Teller, daughter of an alleged Nazi scientist turned United States collaborator at the end of World War II, from East Berlin, evading KGB operative Illya Kuryakin. He later reports to his superior, Saunders, who reveals that Teller's uncle Rudi works in a shipping company owned by Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra, a wealthy couple of Nazi sympathizers who intend to use Teller's father to build their own private nuclear weapon. Solo and Kuryakin are ordered to join forces to stop them from succeeding, with both men secretly assigned to steal the weapon's schematics for their respective governments.
The trio travels to Rome, where Teller and Kuryakin pose as an engaged couple and Solo as an antiquities dealer as their respective covers. Solo deduces they are being monitored and instructs Kuryakin not to react to provocation so as to preserve this cover. Despite their hostilities towards each other, Kuryakin heeds his advice and does not react when his father's prized watch is stolen. Later, at an auto racing event promoted by the Vinciguerras, Solo and Teller take turns flirting with the host couple to lure out information about Teller's father, while Kuryakin acquires evidence the Vinciguerras were recently exposed to radiation, indicating that their weapon is near completion.
Solo and Kuryakin begrudgingly join forces to break into a shipping yard, in which they find traces of uranium. After accidentally setting off the alarm, they evade the security guards and return to their hotel. Victoria arrives to confront Solo, but he manages to evade her suspicions. The following day, Teller meets with Rudi and Alexander to discuss a job and betrays Kuryakin to them, forcing him to escape, while Solo is sedated and captured by Victoria and taken to a nearby warehouse, where he is tortured by Rudi. Solo is saved by Kuryakin, allowing Rudi to reveal that the weapon is hidden in an island fortress, where Teller is reunited with her father. On the island, Teller attempts to help her father escape and sabotage the warhead, but is caught by Victoria, who then kills her father.
Solo and Kuryakin are approached by Alexander Waverly, a high-ranking MI6 operative who reveals that Teller is an undercover agent under his employ. He and his men help Solo and Kuryakin infiltrate the Vinciguerras' compound. Alexander attempts to escape with Teller and the warhead, but is intercepted by Kuryakin and killed. Teller reveals that the warhead is a secondary bomb, and Victoria is leaving on a boat with the payload. Solo is able to contact her via radio and manipulate her into revealing her location, allowing Waverly to destroy the boat with the decoy, simultaneously destroying the weapon and killing her, while Solo retrieves the disc with the data on Teller's father's research.
Kuryakin confronts Solo in his hotel room, intending to kill him and steal the disc, but changes his mind when Solo produces his father's watch, which he had retrieved. The two destroy the disc so as to prevent both their countries from gaining the upper hand in the nuclear race. They then reunite with Teller and Waverly, who reveals that the trio has been reassigned to a new international organization under his command. He then deploys them on a new mission in Istanbul under their new codename: U.N.C.L.E.
The old spy thriller story series of the 60's has finally made it to the silver screen. A pleasant change from the usual JamesBond versions we are used to. The cast is perfect and hope it lasts at least a few more episodes - though I'll be happy if Alicia disappears. She has been quite painful to watch.