november nouveau: the man from u.n.c.l.e.


Saving the world never goes out of style

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) is a secret agent movie based on the 1960s television series with the same name. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. It stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Hugh Grant. 


Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin

Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller

Hugh Grant as Alexander Waverly

Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra

Sylvester Groth as Uncle Rudi

It is the 1960s and the Cold War is hot! CIA agent Napoleon Solo helps Gaby Teller escape from East Germany despite the opposition of KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. A short time later all three, to their utter disbelief, find themselves working together. A criminal organization with ties to ex-Nazis wants Gaby’s scientist father to make them a nuclear bomb. For the sake of the world the three of them must find a way to get along and cooperate – while each pursues their own personal agenda. 

  • U.N.C.L.E. stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. 
  • In Puerto Rico, and other Latin American countries, U.N.C.L.E. was changed to C.I.P.O.L. which stood for Comision Internacional Para la Observancia de la Ley (International Commission for the Observance of the Law). Like with U.N.C.L.E. many people thought C.I.P.O.L. was an actual organization as well. 
  • In the movie, Napoleon Solo removes a tablecloth from a table while leaving all the objects on the table undisturbed. This was a not a visual effect. Henry Cavill did it for real having been taught the trick by Mat Ricardo. 
  • In order to prepare for his role, Armie Hammer watched key episodes of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. television series before production began. He was the only cast member to do so. 
  • Henry Cavill originally tried out for the role of Illya Kuryakin. 
  • Henry Cavill’s suits as Napoleon Solo were created by renowned British tailor Timothy Everest. During one of his fittings at Everest’s shop, Cavill accidentally broke the change room door off its hinges. The staff then kept it as a memento of the time Superman broke their door. 
  • David Beckham has a cameo appearing as the projectionist when Illya is being briefed. 
  • Elizabeth Debicki (6ft. 3in.) is actually two inches taller than Henry Cavill (6ft. 1in.). 
  • Warner Bros. had been trying to make a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie for over a decade but it never seemed able to get a green light. 

(a) Steven Soderbergh was set to direct but dropped out over casting and budget disagreements. 

(b) George Clooney was cast as Napoleon Solo but was forced to drop out due to ill health.

(c) At one time or another Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprion, Joel Kinnaman, Russell Crowe, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Channing Tatum, and Jon Hamm were all considered for the role of Napoleon Solo.  

  • The villain’s surname is Vinciguerra. This is based on the Italian phrase “vinci guerra” which translates to “win war.” 
  • In one scene Illya Kuryakin wears the same outfit (turtleneck, jacket, shades) as Magneto in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011). Meanwhile, in the scene where Napoleon Solo and Illya break into the factory, Henry Cavill is wearing the same outfit that Robert Vaughn wore in an episode of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. television series. 


  • This movie is an origin story. I hate origin stories! Somehow whenever a movie is made based on a spy action TV show the movie producers feel compelled to tell us an origin story. WILD WILD WEST movie – origin story. THE AVENGERS (Steed and Mrs. Peel) movie – origin story. I SPY movie – origin story. Now I will grant you that Guy Ritchie has said in interviews that what appealed to him about this movie was the chance to do an origin story. Whoopie! Unfortunately, we’re not discussing what appeals to Mr. Ritchie. Right now, we’re talking about what appeals, or does not appeal, to me – and making this movie into an origin story did not appeal to me at all. I would have preferred keeping the Solo and Illya characters more mysterious as they were in the television show. 
  • The characters bare little resemblance to their TV counterparts. Napoleon Solo is a blackmarketeer in danger of getting sent back to prison? Illya Kuryakin is psychotic? Gimme a freaking break! 
  • The evil organization THRUSH does not appear in this film. It can be assumed that the bad guys are THRUSH, but they are never named – which is a bad move considering they are the reason for U.N.C.L.E.’s existence in the first place. 
  • The producers couldn’t be bothered to invite Robert Vaughn or David McCallum to appear in cameos. The reason this movie got made was because it had an already established fan base that has been around for decades. So you choose to acknowledge this by NOT including the two television stars who helped make this happen. For shame!


  • This is a slick and stylish high adventure romp. You laugh when you’re supposed to laugh. You cry when you’re supposed to cry. You’re scared when you’re supposed to be scared. And most importantly, you cheer when you’re supposed to cheer!
  • The movie is set in the 1960s. The Cold War backdrop is perfect for a movie showcasing an American hero and a Russian hero. But it also gets to show us 1960s fashions and 1960s music. Love it!
  • The cast is amazing. The contrast between Cavill playing an American agent and Hammer as his Russian nemesis is perfect. Alicia Vikander is the best thing about this movie. Armie Hammer almost steals the show, but Vikander beats him to it. I love Hugh Grant!
  • The action is great and the way it is presented in split screens is awesome. I love split screens!
  • This is why I fell in love with spy movies in the first place. 

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movie is based on THE MANFROM U.N.C.L.E. television series starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. Originally intended to be a creation of Ian Fleming he was forced to bow out of the series by the producers of the James Bond movies. His contribution consisting of the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer. Because of Fleming’s involvement Sam Rolfe was credited as developing the series with Norman Felton as Executive Producer. In truth the two of them created the show. Their series was an American spy-fiction show produced by MGM Television and broadcast on NBC. The show premiered on the 22 September 1964 and ended its run on 15 January 1968. The series also had a one season spin-off called THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. starring Stephanie Powers as April Dancer and Noel Harrison as Mark Slate. 

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. television series was a ground-breaking hit and made Robert Vaughn and David McCallum superstars on the level of the Beatles. The show was unique in that its two heroes were an American and a Russian at a time when the Cold War was at its worse. And despite being an action/adventure series the heroes used non-lethal dart guns. However, with a popularity and a fan base that stuck with the show for decades it still took 50 years for a movie about the series to be made. Was it worth the wait? I’m not sure – it depends upon what day of the week you ask me. 

There is a part of me that wants to hate this movie – for all the reasons I listed under DISLIKE above. But I question whether I should judge this movie in comparison to the TV show or should this movie be judged entirely on its own merits. Because the simple fact of the matter is if I judge this film on its own merits then I have to admit I love this movie!

This film reminded me why I fell in love with secret agent movies in the first place. It has just the right mix of action, suspense, humor, and sex appeal. It combines high production values with dynamite performances – especially by Alicia Vikander. It’s got music, it’s got charm, and best of all it has heart. The only way this movie fails is if you compare it to the television series it sprang from. But if judged on its own it is outstanding!

If you are a huge fan of the original television series, then this movie will most likely disappoint you. You will probably walk away more angry than entertained. However, if you can judge this film on its own merits then I highly recommend this movie. If you are like me and you started watching secret agent movies in the 1960s then you are in for a treat. If you like action/adventure with just the right humor thrown in, then you will love this film. If you like girls, gadgets, and guns then check this out. In other words – watch this movie!

In our floating rating scale, I give THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.two separate ratings. 

If you are a huge fan of the original television series, then I give it three gray geeks. 

If you can judge this film on its own merits, then I give it four and a half gray geeks. 

My friends we have reached that point where it is time for me to say farewell. As always, I have loved talking movies with you and I hope you loved it too. May the sun gently caress your cheek, may the wind always be at your back, and may the great bird of happiness take a poop on your head. Hasta la vista!

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