Another cultural landmark of the baby-boomer generation returns with the arrival of the breezy espionage yarn “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (Warner Bros.).
The droll humor that punctuates this adaptation of the mid-1960s television series, as well as the James Bond-style glamour that permeates it, will likely please viewers. But they’ll find little of substance to take away with them once the final credits roll.
Though its action is set at the height of the Cold War in 1963, this origin story’s premise is East and West agreeing to cooperate in fighting the Nazis.
It seems Hitler’s leftover minions are back to causing trouble. This time, they’ve spirited away prominent scientist Dr. Udo Teller (Christian Berkel). Teller is the genius behind a revolutionary nuclear development that, should it fall into the wrong hands, would spell doom alike for D.C. and the Kremlin.
So it’s time to play nice, much to the machismo-driven chagrin of two apparent enemies: Napoleon Solo of the CIA (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin of the KGB (Armie Hammer). Yet these forced friends turn out to have more in common than they initially realize, since neither serves his government with a truly willing heart.
Rounding out the team formed by these unwilling collaborators is Dr. Teller’s estranged daughter, Gaby (Alicia Vikander).
Together this improvised trio tracks the suspicious activities of Alexander Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani), and his scheming wife, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki).
The picture’s underlying anti-war, pro-friendship sentiments are congenial enough. Yet reflective moviegoers will note that they rest, to some extent at least, on an implied moral equivalence between the Soviets and their Western foes that’s wholly at variance with the truths of history.
The film contains much violence, including torture, but with little gore, brief gruesome images, off-screen casual encounters, glimpses of partial nudity, some sexual banter and a couple of crude terms. (A-III, PG-13)