The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Blu-ray Review

Guy Ritchie’s smooth, slick update of the ’60s Television Show starring the current Superman

Decades after The Man From U.N.C.L.E left American airwaves for good, director Guy Ritchie resurrects the Cold War spy series in this shiny, lightweight Hollywood update that delivers just enough action and humor. A breathless action vehicle that vaguely resembles a lighter James Bond entry, Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. reboots the series by telling an origin story steeped in the Cold War of 1963. An American spy teams up with his KGB counterpart when a mysterious criminal organization gets their hands on nuclear technology that would upset the delicate balance of power and threaten everyone. It’s a lightly comedic spy film heavy on action set pieces and two stars that feel very comfortable in their lead roles, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. opens with a daring, stylish set piece revolving around an elaborate car chase. The chase pits an unstoppable KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), against Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), the CIA’s best spy. Solo hopes to rescue East German car mechanic, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). She is the daughter of a missing German scientist that has come up with a much simpler process for enriching uranium, critical to making a nuclear bomb.

In a sleight of hand the narrative glosses over very quickly, the CIA and KGB put their differences aside by pairing Napoleon Solo and Kuryakin together on a critical mission. Their mission is to travel to Italy with Gaby and go undercover, where Gaby’s uncle may know her father’s whereabouts. It’s a rag-tag team that doesn’t always work well together with the suave American thief turned spy, a KGB killing machine and a young female car mechanic.

Ritchie makes sure this movie won’t lose younger viewers with its dated references from the Sixties or their lack of prior knowledge about the television show, which last aired in 1968. A breezy credits sequence recaps the major events leading up to the Cold War for those that didn’t pay attention in history class. A quick debriefing within the first ten minutes retells Napoleon Solo’s personal history before he became a CIA agent. The American was a master thief that had been caught stealing antiquities in Europe after World War II. The CIA recognized his immense talent and uncanny skills at evading detection, keeping him out of prison in exchange for serving as their agent. Solo is the handsome, smooth rogue with wit to spare, a daring spy loosely modeled after James Bond.

It is apparent from its opening moments that Ritchie hopes he is creating a new spy movie franchise…

One thing this movie does get right is the natural chemistry which develops between Napoleon Solo and Russian Illya Kuryakin, mostly thanks to Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. It is apparent from its opening moments that Ritchie hopes he is creating a new spy movie franchise with this reboot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. While the movie lasts nearly two hours with no obvious fat to trim in the editing room, shaving twenty minutes would have done wonders for a needlessly extended final act. It is only because Cavill and Hammer look like they are having fun in their roles that the film turns out decently.

Some things don’t work as well in the movie. Alicia Vikander is fairly forgettable as the young Gaby and often comes off like an afterthought to the two spies. Light flirting between Gaby and Kuryakin is awkwardly handled, leading to the impression a deeper romance was originally included in the script and then removed. It does add minor texture to Kuraykin’s character but annoys more than anything else by the end. One twist is given away when Hugh Grant makes an appearance in a small role. An actor of his stature isn’t going to appear for a token cameo role unless it eventually becomes an important role, possibly in the planned sequel.

Guy Ritchie has toned down his hyperkinetic direction to furnish this cool, stylish spy flick. The two male leads are probably worth the price of admission by themselves if you enjoy modern action and Bond-like adventure. I don’t know if it’s good enough to start a franchise by itself but this is a watchable update of the Sixties’ television show intended for today’s audiences.

Movie ★★★★☆

Awesome lighting work @ 9:12

Guy Ritchie’s films have always had a distinctive aesthetic due to their exotic cinematography and innovative visual style. Ritchie has finally moved to all-digital filmmaking by employing the Arri Alexa Plus for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and a variety of lesser cameras. This is sharp, modern video definition with rather detailed resolution. Largely pristine in quality and struck from a Digital Intermediate, it does tend to favor the amber and teal school of color grading so popular in modern blockbusters. The main feature is presented at 1080P resolution in its intended 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

The movie averages a solid 25.94 Mbps in its adequate AVC video encode on a BD-50. While the parameters could have been pushed higher, there are no evident compression artifacts for the clean digital video. Respectable black levels and outstanding contrast produce a high degree of clarity, especially once the setting shifts from the darker East Germany to the brighter Italian setting. The clarity loves reveling in the period fashions and production design of its settings. One could call the Italian scenes picturesque, shot quite dramatically.

Warner has done a solid effort with this Blu-ray transfer, closely replicating the film’s intended appearance. Some minor aliasing due to digital composites are the only weakness in this capable Hi-Def video.

Video ★★★★☆

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. features an impressive 7.1 Dolby Atmos soundtrack that most people will hear via its 5.1 Dolby TrueHD core. This is a dense, sweeping sound mix with outstanding discrete cues. That creates a high-impact audio presentation that immerses the listener with its musical score in true Hollywood blockbuster style.

Mastered with effective bass in a litany of big action sequences, this is a soundtrack designed for those lucky enough to invest thousands in their surround systems. Sound design is one of the stronger aspects of this film.

Various bits of Russian and Italian dialogue are translated via yellow subtitles that have been burned within the film’s scope presentation. The optional subtitles translating the entire film display outside the 2.40:1 framing in a white font. They include English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish. Dubs include an English Descriptive Video option, French, Spanish and Portuguese in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Audio ★★★★★

Warner provides a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack for this updated theatrical remake of the American television show. First pressings should include a slipcover as well. While these featurettes don’t cover everything, they provide more set footage and behind-the-scenes video than normal. These are light featurettes that interview a wide range of crew members and a handful of the cast. An UltraViolet Digital Copy redeems in HDX on VUDU.

No one will confuse this batch of special features as hard-hitting or particularly insightful, but they include a nice behind-the-scenes glimpse into making this big-budget spy film.

Spyvision: Recreating the ’60s Cool (08:34 in HD) – Guy Ritchie and one of the producers discuss their aims with this project as the featurette covers costume and production design challenges.

A Higher Class of Hero (07:13 in HD) – Ritchie discusses his unique approach to creating innovative looking action stunts. Always trying to create something fresh, he’s pushed his style beyond his earlier movies in an attempt to avoid duplicating it. We do get a nice look at filming the various car and motorcycle stunts from the set.

Metisse Motorcycles: Proper and Very British (04:49 in HD) – Armie Hammer visits the factory where Metisse Motorcycles are made and introduces us to their usage in the film.

The Guys from UNCLE (04:57 in HD) A part making-of, part travelogue look behind the scenes covering the male leads.

A Man of Extraordinary Talents (03:16 in HD) – A puff piece depicting Ritchie’s hobbies behind the camera when it’s not rolling. The director loves playing chess on set.

UNCLE: On-Set Spy (05:16 in HD) – Four brief clips strung together of on-set footage as critical action scenes are being filmed. They aren’t related but were likely too short to be included in other featurettes.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer (02:34 in HD) – This trailer precedes the main menu, starring Henry Cavill as Superman.

Extras ★★☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.