The Man From U.N.C.L.E. intriguedas a television series on NBC from 1964 to 1968, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president and the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union triggered a sharp escalation of troops in South Vietnam.
Half a century later, Hollywood gives us a movie based on the series, which wasn't even televised in color for Season One. As with the series, the movie opens in a divided Berlin in the early 1960s. There is nary a mention of Islamic extremists or even the Middle East until the end, when our pair of unlikely "secret" agents, having averted nuclear war (thank you!), get a new assignment:
Go to Istanbul, boys. Now!
Henry Cavill, whom you may remember from the ill-fated Man of Steel, plays a Superman of sorts in this whimsical adventure, where he's known as renegade-turned-CIA spy Napoleon Solo. Armie Hammer, who spent time growing up in the Park Cities, turns on a Russian accent to play Soviet counterpart Illya Kuryakin.
So, does this movie have anything to say about the Cold War? Hardly. You'd best turn to the terrific FX series The Americans if you're looking for that.
Directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), the cinema version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. borrows liberally from the James Bond franchise and from the other 1960s TV spy series whose box-office success it's trying so hard to replicate, Mission: Impossible.
This carries the same high-octane action and frenetic editing but is nothing more than a summer popcorn caravan. It even includes an appearance by old favorite Hugh Grant, seen here as a dapper British agent, leading us to wonder if they should have called it About a Bomb.
Solo and Kuryakin solve all the mysteries, except for one: Who exactly is the target audience here? Millennials may wonder why no one says anything about ISIS or Al-Qaeda or even Donald Trump.
It's got all the ingredients - improbable romances, partial nudity, ridiculous escapes - that make it little more than big-sound and big-picture fodder for the Imax screens it will appear on throughout the country. Sorry, but this one will fly solo into oblivion.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (C+)
Directed by Guy Ritchie. PG-13 (action violence, some suggestive content, partial nudity). 116 mins. In wide release.