After giving us two steampunk-flavored reboots of Sherlock Holmes, director Guy Ritchie has directed the Wayback Machine to the Golden Age of Kennedy, Khrushchev and, perhaps above all, Ian Fleming with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” based on the 1964-1968 TV show.
The Cold War got sexier after the release of the very first big screen 007 experience, “Dr. No,” and Ritchie’s new movie, set in the early ’60s, harkens back to a time when pop culture had spies, gadgets and fatal dames behind every dust jacket and on every screen, large and small.
Ritchie trusts the content, the settings along with the actors enough to calm down his hyperactive camera also to discover the fun in analog espionage.
On a routine mission to take out Gaby – daughter of a kidnapped German nuclear scientist – out of East Berlin, Solo crosses paths with instant nemesis Illya Kuryakin, a hulking KGB brute with fury problems.
The next day, Solo and Kuryakin are none too pleased that they will be forced to work collectively, as they and Gaby insinuate themselves into the social groups of Italian industrialists Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra, who are suspected of working with Gaby’s Uncle Rudi on a rogue nuke that both the U.S. and the USSR need to apprehend.
Ritchie’s sense of humor in seconds of strife and violence remains very much a personal taste: I found it hilarious when Solo manages to sit casually and enjoy a snack while Kuryakin finds himself stuck in a dangerous speedboat chase, but there is an inadvertent immolation the picture needs to treat like a joke that feels overly harsh for both the period and also the tone established by the remainder of the film.