A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a slick adaptation of the '60s TV spy drama about Russian and American secret agents who must team up to save both nations from a nuclear threat. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger), the movie should appeal to teens and fans of quick, stylized action films. There are scenes of violence, fighting, torture, and execution-style murders, but the worst moments are usually handled off-camera -- as is the sex, which is referenced and hinted at, but not shown (although a topless woman wearing sheer underwear is shown from behind). Characters do banter in loaded/teasing ways, as well as drink and smoke (accurate for the era). The language is fairly mild for a Ritchie film ("p---y" is the strongest word), and, despite the now-dated depiction of women in the original show, the main female character in the movie is integral to the plot -- and pretty fearless.
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What's the story?
An adaptation of the hit '60s TV series, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. follows two very different spies who end up forced to work together for the global good. In the Cold War climate of the early 1960s, suave American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is sent on a mission to transport East German mechanic Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) over the Berlin Wall to West Germany. Hot on their heels is huge Russian spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), who seems to posses superhuman focus and strength. Soon after the rescue, Napoleon and Illya are assigned to work in an unprecedented collaboration: They must use Gaby to infiltrate an Italian shipping company that's thought to be keeping her father, a famous German physicist, hostage in order to build a nuclear bomb. The trio heads to Italy on their mission, but the men continue to distrust and compete with each other.
Is it any good?
Writer-director Guy Ritchie knows how to entertain, and here he tones down his signature rapid-fire editing and convoluted plots for a fun, straightforward thriller. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. revels in its setting and the Mod eyecandy of its stars; although Illya calls Napoleon "Cowboy," Cavill -- who's ridiculously dapper as the suave American spy -- is more of an old-school-Bond-meets-Thomas-Crown-like character, with bespoke suits and perfectly coiffed, well, everything. Audiences may start to wonder when he'll slip into his native English accent, because a "Cowboy" he is not. But it doesn't matter, because Cavill is a distractingly attractive smooth operator. Hammer, on the other hand, must play the "heavy," a psychologically fragile, strapping work of Soviet precision who has trouble keeping his temper in check -- particularly when he feels humiliated.
For all of the beautiful women in the movie -- and Napoleon's reputation as a womanizer -- there's not a Bond-level of romantic tension in the movie. Vikander and Hammer keep their sparks simmering on low, and it's really the two men who banter and tease. At least Vikander's Gaby isn't just a pretty accessory; her character (a gearhead) is just as valuable as the men, even if she's not in as many of the high-octane action sequences. With its elegant cinematography and editing, fabulous soundtrack (Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Solomon Burke), and gorgeous costumes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is amusing popcorn fare that's fun, if not particularly filling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Is it realistic or stylized? When is it used humorously, and when is it serious? Does the editing and the use of background violence lighten the impact of the violence? Is it OK to let kids see some kinds of media violence and not others?
How are women portrayed in the movie? Are they just decorative accessories, or are they central to the plot? How does that depiction compare to the way women were portrayed in spy movies and shows actually made in the '60s and '70s?
Discuss the way that the literary device of opposites/foils is used in the story. How are Illya and Napoleon different? Why are partnerships like theirs so compelling? Name some other famous partners who are opposites.
- In theaters: August 14, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2015
- Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
- Director: Guy Ritchie
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity
- Last updated: May 01, 2020
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