I owe Guy Ritchie a gift basket after The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a big studio action movie that for once feels like a genre I like rather than just a good version of something I don’t. You see, and sorry if I lose you here, but I hate Bourne movies. They always feel like some Tom Clancy freak inventing doomsday scenarios for his GI Joes while CNN drones in the background. Intense, but joyless, with action that exhausts more than it excites. Perhaps by extension, I haven’t liked a Bond movie since Casino Royale.
Somewhere along the line, big studio action movies became more about intense stares and grunting than wry smirks and panache (Casino Royale even falls into this category, though I thought it was interesting for the way it depicted James Bond as the psychopath he’d probably be if he really did all those things). Do we really want to see some 40-something actor pretend to be Tony Jaa through the magic of creative framing and fast editing?
By contrast, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a swinging, sexy movie about Cold War spycraft starring immaculately costumed specimens of raw sexuality (Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Armie Hammer). It’s breezy without being half-assed, and above all, it’s fun. Hot people, sexy music, exotic vistas, delicious one-liners – it’s everything I always wanted from Bond movies but never got.
Henry Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, a post-WWII antiquities smuggler recruited by the CIA. “Debonaire art smuggler” and “Superman” being two of the only roles that could believably be portrayed by a man as perfectly formed as Henry Cavill. That hair, that chin — he’s like a Greek God from a homoerotic cartoon.