Review The Man from UNCLE
Bearing the stylish vintage details but suffering from lack of plot development and text-bookish characterization, that's what makes U.N.C.L.E.
*Estimated Read Time: 4 mins

Don’t kill your partner on your first day,” said Sanders.

Adapted from 1960s TV series of the same title, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an essential entry to espionage-thriller sub-genre dubbed as the American counterpart of 007.  In its era, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a phenomenon for pairing an American agent with a Russian agent for world’s most dangerous missions.

Twenty bucks said most viewers nowadays, including me, never heard of or watched it prior to this adaptation started buzzing.

Lucky enough, the filmmakers knew how to make this adaptation connects to today’s audience pretty well. First step, they stick to the vintage 60s setting along with the nuclear and cold war paranoia. Second, they point interesting gentleman spies: Henry Cavill (in his more Superman role that in Man of Steel) as Napoleon Solo, the nearly perfect American agent, and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) as a compulsive, bipolar Russian agent, Ilya Kuriyakin. Add a ‘Bond girl’-esque character in Alicia Vikander as Gaby; then, it should have been a spy bonanza.

One thing to remember: it’s a Guy Ritchie’s movie. Another thing to remember though: it’s a not Guy Ritchie in a Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch level; but rather Guy Ritchie in Sherlock Holmes level.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. hits hard right from the fast and vast opening with a fast introduction to the characters followed by over-the-top pursuit scene involving Napoleon, Ilya, and Gaby. Then came the twist in which Napoleon and Ilya should work as partner to protect Gaby, a Nazi engineer’s daughter, as well as to secure a weapon of mass destruction from a villainous family led by Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki).

The vintage setting is a big deal in this movie, especially dealing with art direction and the decision to conduct in-location shot (rumor has it 60% of the scenes are shot in location). That gives an opportunity for Guy Ritchie to work with details and style, especially with whimsical gadgets and exotic location.

Characters are also at finest look. Napoleon Solo’s a dandy and a definite alpha-male, bringing up 007 persona, and with Cavill, he’s Clark Kent at finest. Ilya Kuryakin’s more clumsy and hostile, yet Hammer fails to emanate the Russian persona at all. Vikander’s Gaby is the middle woman with uncovered twist. The trio shows good chemistry. However, those characters are text-bookish and full of genre-cliché; nothing new and no depth.

Stylish at maximum point, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. neglects what’s important in espionage movie: plot. For a pure action film, the plot and the action sequences are okay; but as an espionage movie, it gives nothing but frown.

In the end, good premise of two opposing agents paired up together along with amazing casts doesn’t develop well due to lack of plot development and characterization. Still, it’s a good movie (like Sherlock Holmes) but that’s not enough.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) 1h 56min | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 14 August 2015 (USA) Summary: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.
Countries: USA, UKLanguages: English, Russian, German, Italian

Diadaptasi dari serial TV dekade era 60-an, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. adalah entry yang esensial dalam dunia thriller spionase sebagai versi Amerika 007. Di eranya, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. jadi fenomena karena idenya memasangkan agen Amerika dengan agen Rusia yang notabene bermusuhan.

Berani taruhan, kebanyakan viewer masa kini pasti belum pernah mendengarnya—sampai adaptasi ini mulai dibicarakan.

Untungnya, para filmmakernya tahu caranya menyambungkan film ini dengan audience masa kini. Pertama, setting 60-an tetap dipakai lengkap dengan paranoia perang dingin dan nuklir. Kedua, para gentleman spy-nya good-looking: Henry Cavill (yang lebih mirip Superman daripada di Man of Steel) sebagai Napoleon Solo, agen Amerika yang hampir sempurna; serta Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) sebagai agen Russia yang bipolar, Ilya Kuryakin. Ditambah dengan karakter a la Bond girl dalam diri Alicia Vikander sebagai Gaby, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. harusnya jadi film mata-mata yang gila-gilaan.

Yang perlu diingat: ini film Guy Ritchie. Yang perlu diingat lagi: Ini bukan Guy Ritchie yang membuat Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrrels atau Snatch; tapi Guy Ritchie yang membuat Sherlock Holmes (Ini bercanda; tapi, you know what I mean, right?)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. langsung mengebut dengan openingnya yang over-the-top sekaligus perkenalan karakter utamanya, Napoleon, Ilya, dan Gaby. Kemudian muncul twist yang mempertemukan Napoleon dan Ilya dalam misi besar melawan keluarga fasis yang dipimpin Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki).

Setting vintage-nya mungkin jadi senjata terbaik film ini, apalagi dengan art direction serta shooting i- locationnya (yang kabarnya sampai 60% dari total shots). Guy Ritchie memaksimalkannya untuk memperkaya detail dan gaya filmnya, most notably dengan gawai yang whimsical serta lokasinya yang eksotik.

Karakter-karakternya juga terlihat “menarik.” Napoleon Solo jelas adalah alpha-male yang kadar ke-007-an sangat tinggi, sementara Cavill malah memerankannya seolah memerankan Clark Kent. Sementara Ilya digambarkan lebih clumsy namun brutal, hanya saja Hammer gagal memancarkan persona Russia tokoh ini. Vikander menjadi penengahnya, karakternya pun ber-twist tapi tidak tertutup rapi. Ketiganya memang punya chemistry yang bagus, tapi karakter mereka telalu text-bookish dan terlalu penuh klise; tak ada inovasi dan dangkal.

Memang The Man from U.N.C.L.E. sangat stylish, hanya saja film ini melupakan nature-nya sebagai film spionase. Kalau ini film aksi murni, mungkin plot dan action sequence-nya masih masuk akal, tapi sebagai film spionase, plotnya kelewat tipis dan predictable.

Pada akhirnya, premis yang menjanjikan kerja sama dua agen yang saling berlawanan malah gagal dimaksimalkan karena pengembangan plot yang ‘kerdil’ serta karakterisasi yang terlalu dangkal. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. masih tetap film yang bagus, hanya saja itu tidak cukup.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. review is written and translated into Bahasa Indonesia by Paskalis Damar.