In a world gone mad for superhero movies, what chance does the light spy caper have? Audiences will put total faith in a guy wearing a red metal suit, but the soft woolen folds of the bespoke kind barely register. Are modern audiences ready for the stylish, artfully ridiculous delights of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which features beautiful human beings wearing fabulous threads as they discreetly saunter -- or dash via motorboat -- from palazzo to racetrack to five-star hotel?
This may be the summer movie we didn't know we were waiting for. Though it's made with lots of modern tricks and technology, it's old-fashioned in the best sense. The picture is a riff on the Cold War–era TV show about two spies from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain -- nattily suited Napoleon Solo and turtleneck enthusiast Illya Kuryakin, played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum — who team up to crush enemies of world peace. There's also little doubt that the movie was conceived to cash in on Mad Men mania: One of its three stars, Alicia Vikander, sports a wardrobe sent straight from Courrèges heaven, including a faint-worthy silver-and-white metallic coat-and-minidress combo.
For all this visual splendor and energy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. isn't a completely graceful picture: Director Guy Ritchie just doesn't know when to quit, which means we get multiple endings when, really, just one would do. And he can't resist his trademark trick of showing us the thing that happens and then backtracking oh-so-cleverly to show us how it happened. (At least he's good at it.) But the cutting isn't as crazy-fast as usual; it's as if for once he wants actually to see what's going on.