While it's likely that the swingin 60's espionage thriller can't compete with Straight Outta' Compton as Universal's record-breaking year draws to a close, the film should- and will- find legs and hopefully lead to more of the adventures of American daredevil Napoleon Solo and the Russian powerhouse Illya Kuryakin.
The film's plot is fairly straightforward, with Russia and America joining forces by way of their two best men to combat a Nuclear threat from a former Nazi rocketeer. This leads them to the scientist's daughter Gaby, played brilliantly by Ex Machina break-out Alicia Vikander, and on a collision course with the devilish Victoria, who plans to launch the nuke.
Guy Ritchie's last success was his character-driven mystery, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and his style was on point like a blade for this feature. The action and comedy hit and snaps with equal beats of life and energy, and the set-pieces were delightfully old-fashioned yet spun with a modernity that didn't overshadow it; but rather complemented it. Boat-lead escapes, cross country car races, dazzling rooftop getaways and more. U.N.C.L.E. makes over-the-top actioners like the most recent Bond-fare seem so far away from it's own roots it's laughable.
Ritchie and Wigram's screenplay though is where the film truly shines; but would be nothing without it's cast. Cavill and Hammer are given room to be suave and hard in equal measure for the former and the latter, and the movie never uses the tired method of "cultural differences for laughs" that most "two worlds come together" character pieces play out to no end, even at the height of the Cold war, the two males butt heads as men do, and their growth as partners (and later as friends) is never reached by ham-fisted cliches or groan inducing lines; but as mutual respect for one another, and their strengths and weaknesses.
The female leads though, excel a film cemented almost 50 years in the pats firmly in the future. Alicia Vikander's character is introduced as a mechanic, a hard working grease-monkey, and not once is it addressed she is a woman. Solo isn't shocked or demeaning to her in anyway, same for the film's central antagonist, played by Elizabeth Debicki. It's a small detail, but it goes to show how much of a difference it can make in the long run.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation did this similarly, and makes the Bond franchise seem more and more like a fossil, for a series that's last strong female character was back in 2008 with Quantum of Solace.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is not a boisterous explosion-filled summer bang, and it is yet another strength.
The film isn't focused on telling the audience "Look, this isn't just an old TV show!". It's a quiet film that's loud in it's color and it's heart, and is more of a bright Sunday drive than an adrenalin pumping wam-bam spectacle- not to say that there isn't enough action and intrigue; but it's a drive that you'll want to take again and, hopefully in the future, can with the ear-to-ear grin that will come across you with the sequel hook and name drop.