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Film / The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

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"America teaming up with Russia. That doesn't sound very friendly."
Gaby Teller

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a 2015 spy-fi movie directed by Guy Ritchie, based on the 1960s television series. It stars Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller, Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra and Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly.

Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s period of the Cold War and centering around respective CIA and KGB agents; the American Napoleon Solo and Russian Illya Kuryakin. The two are forced to team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization led by Victoria Vinciguerra, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is Gaby Teller, the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time utilizing her connections and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Tropes in the film include:

  • The Ace:
    • Solo is the CIA's top agent, a stylish man, and both The Casanova and The Charmer. Although the end credits sequence does note him as a serial womanizer. Deconstructed in that Solo's a Boxed Crook who really doesn't want to work for the CIA and would rather go back to living life as a carefree Gentleman Thief. He also is shown to be a bit of a narcissist, having trouble adapting for other cultures and styles (like when dressing Gaby), and getting petty with others. Then reconstructed as because he hates his CIA bosses blackmailing him into working for him, he worked hard to be The Ace as a way to spite them.
    • Kuryakin also fits the bill, seeing as he joined the KGB and became, not only their youngest agent, but their best after only 3 years. Potentially a Broken Ace, as despite the veneer of ace-ness, he is mentally unstable and is both shamed and threatened by his superiors in after his father was sent to the Gulag.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • While Freeze-Frame Bonus allows the viewers to enjoy mythology gags in Ilya's and Napoleon's dossiers, Alicia Vikander's training as a professional ballet dancer is alluded to in Gaby's dossier.
    • Jared Harris's Saunders (along with his KGB counterpart) ends a meeting by signaling for everyone else in the cafe to leave as well. He did the same thing as Professor Moriarty in Ritchie's previous film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
    • Henry Cavill (Superman) refers to Kuryakin as "Super Agent".
  • Adapted Out: Though Vinciguerra is running a criminal organization, it's never named, so it isn't clear if this is supposed to be THRUSH or not.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Napoleon Solo is depicted as an (almost) amoral Boxed Crook, con artist, liar and thief who can be very self-absorbed and more than a bit of a Jerkass; to a lesser extent, Ilya Kuryakin, who is shown to suffer from bouts of uncontrollable violent anger with a troubled background and more than a bit of a Control Freak. None of this comes from the original show, where both are much more heroic and principled characters from the outset.
  • Agents Dating:
  • Alliterative Name: Victoria Vinciguerra.
  • Almost Kiss: Gaby and Illya lean in for a kiss three times before being interrupted.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The end credits show still shots of the four leads on the adventure in Istanbul Waverly mentioned.
  • Argentina Is Nazi Land: The Vinciguerras are a family business of Italian fascists who are suspected to have been responsible for Nazi officers and treasures making their way to South America. This is explained while Napoleon's and Illya's respective handlers establish the family's threat level.
  • Artifact Title: There is no character in the movie who can be described by the phrase "the man from UNCLE"; UNCLE doesn't exist until the epilogue, and there's no one man the film is about. The title is taken from the show, which was itself an artifact title once Kuryakin got promoted to co-lead.
  • Artistic License – History: Illya's superiors threaten to send him to the Gulag if he fails. However, this threat makes no sense, as the film is set in June, 1963 at the earliest, as shown by John F. Kennedy's American University Speech playing on Solo's TV at one point, which he gave on the 10th of June, 1963. The Gulags were shut down on the 25th of January, 1960, meaning Illya couldn't have been sent to themnote .
  • Asshole Victim: Uncle Rudi. When he's first introduced, he shows how much of a dick he is when he insults Kuryakin for his "inferior" Slavic descent, his niece's "fiance" for no damn good reason at all. Then he's revealed to be a Nazi sadist who tortures Solo. When he burns to death in his own torture chair neither Solo, Kuryakin or the audience appears to spare a damn for him.
  • Badass Boast: Subverted during the boat chase, Kuryakin tells Solo to "Watch me work, Cowboy!" Little does he know that Solo already fell off the boat and soon comes to his rescue.
  • Badass Driver: Kuryakin, an experienced motorcyclist, Gabi, a mechanic, and Alexander Vinciguerra, a professional racing driver, all set their skills up pretty early on. Solo gets into the mix in the final chase scene.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Solo and Kuryakin have great taste in clothes, to say the least.
  • Badass in Distress: Happens to both of the leading men at different points, Napoleon goes back and saves Illya from near drowning when their first infiltration outing goes awry, Illya returns the favor later by saving Napoleon from Electric Torture at the hands of Uncle Rudi.
  • Bait-and-Switch: All over the place. A lot of the film's humor and even some of its heartwarming moments are derived from the follow-through of an action not quite going where you think it's going to go, or it goes there but does it with a twist.
  • Based on a True Story: Napoleon and Gabriella ziplining over the Berlin Wall in 1963 was based on Michael Becker and Holger Bethke doing the same in 1983.
  • Bathroom Brawl: Two of them.
    • When CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Ilya Kuryakin are first introduced to each other for a special joint-forces mission, it's in a public restroom in a park. The two have a history, and they knock down most of the stalls in their initial tussle before their handlers intervene to keep Kuryakin from choking Solo.
    • The second occurs at a party thrown by villainous Victoria Vinciguerra. After being insulted by his fake fiance's uncle, Kuryakin slips away to a bathroom for a moment of peace and quiet. When three young Italian aristocrats prevent him from using the sink and tell him to use the ladies' washroom instead, he roughs them up to blow off some steam.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight with Alexander is set during a light rainstorm.
  • Becoming the Mask: Illya and Gaby's cover is the two of them being engaged ...while they don't necessarily get engaged over the course of the film, the relationship between the two blossoms in a way that wasn't planned for -particularly for Illya; see the Was It All a Lie? entry below.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Solo and Kuryakin attempt to get on each other's nerves while getting acquainted. Solo talks about the bad reputation Kuryakin's parents endured, while Kuryakin brings up Solo's criminal background. Solo wins, causing an angry Kuryakin to flip a table. This continues to be a problem for Kuryakin throughout the mission, such as when he beats up Count Lippi and his pals as Percussive Therapy.
    • Victoria's proves to be the smearing of her husband's name, she seemed unaffected until Solo decided to "embellish" the nature of his death; after which she promptly gives him an epic villain's speech in the most classic and grandiose tradition...which immediately proceeds to be her undoing.
  • Big Bad: Victoria Vinciguerra, leader of a neo-fascist terrorist organization in possession of a nuclear weapon, is the woman all three leads are trying to stop.
  • Bilingual Bonus: During the raid at Vinciguerra, Illya takes too long bypassing a locked door, prompting Napoleon to do it for him. When Napoleon snarks at his lack of lockpicking skills, Illya mutters "Suca" under his breath (He said it silently enough that you can only know through subtitles.) "Suca" is Russian for "Bitch," and is also slang for someone who works in organized crime that reforms and joins the law, which is surprisingly accurate to Napoleon's current CIA career.
  • Bloodless Carnage: By the standards of 21st-century action movies, there's very little blood or gore visible in this movie (an echo of the original series, where almost nobody was ever shown bleeding when shot). For example, when Gaby's father is shot in the forehead by Victoria, the audience doesn't see the wound, even when the body is discovered by Napoleon and Illya; also, when Illya fatally stabs Alexander Vinceguerra during their climactic fight, Alexander bleeds from the mouth but the actual wound in his body can't be seen.
  • Bond One-Liner: An indirect version as [Rudi burns to death in his electric chair. "Huh. He fixed the glitch."
  • Booked Full of Mooks: Napoleon and Ilya meet at a West Berlin café with their CIA and KGB handlers to discuss the team-up. When the handlers leave, all the other patrons at the café leave too—they're all agents who took up the other tables to make sure the conversation remained confidential.
  • Boxed Crook: Why Solo's in the CIA's employment; for all intents and purposes, he was a Gentleman Thief with an exemplary war record who the CIA recognized as a natural for post-war espionage. Ilya believes that Solo's continued excellence as a spy is the result of him trying to get some control over his life. Solo's first scene after the East Berlin mission is him trying to end his CIA employment, with his bosses bringing up his lengthy prison sentence that they're happy to force on him. Especially since they're fully aware that he hasn't actually reformed, they're just turning a blind eye to his thefts while he's useful to them.
  • Brick Joke:
    • To escape, Kuryakin jumps out of a three-story window, expecting to land in the water. Solo only hears a thud and a scream. He then does the same a few seconds later... and finds too late that the window was right above a wooden boat dock.
    • Solo tells Kuryakin his bow tie doesn't go with his tuxedo. When we next see Kuryakin, he's ditched the bow tie.
  • Break Them by Talking: The film makes it clear that Illya is by far the superior agent in terms of physicality, as such, variations of this tactic become Solo's signature throughout the film; his gift as The Charmer gives him the skill to accurately find and push nearly anyone's Berserk Button. He does this to Illya because he's a Troll, on a more serious note Waverly acknowledges this skill in the finale and gives Solo the task of talking to Victoria and keeping her on the comm long enough for a missile lock on..
  • Bullet Holes and Revelations: Between Illya and Alexander, with a twist as it turns out the bullet missed both men but at the same time the gun went off Illya had stabbed Alexander in the heart.
  • Calling the Cops on the FBI: In the opening car chase against KGB agent Illya, Gaby and Solo get a few precious extra minutes because the Polizei accost Illya.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Caught Monologuing: How Napoleon defeats Victoria at the end. He lies about the circumstances of her husband's death, goading her into spending valuable time threatening him instead of making her getaway.
  • Character Tics: Illya's left hand starts twitching whenever he gets angry.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Kuryakin tears the back off Solo's getaway car with his bare hands. Solo claims what Kuryakin did was not humanly possible. In the climactic fight, he lifts a motorcycle off him and throws it at Alexander.
  • The Charmer: Solo's specialty. In his profile, his womanizing is listed as a psychological problem.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early on, Illya, while out with Gaby, has his most precious possession, his father's watch, stolen by goons working for the Vinceguerra operation (nearly causing his Berserk Button to be jammed down). Napoleon recovers the watch later on and gives it back to Illya at a crucial moment near the end of the film, completely defusing what could have been a bloody showdown and starting a beautiful friendship instead. Also, the tracking device that was put in Victoria's second, non-nuclear warhead is later placed into the missile that's used to destroy Victoria's boat - and the nuclear warhead that she's about to deliver to the Nazi submarine.
    • The "glitch" in Rudi's torture device comes to timely use when it comes to getting rid of Uncle Rudy.
    • Gaby's second engagement ring is revealed to have been bugged.
    • Misfired during an infiltration. It's not the same watch, but the mistake does lead to them finding the secret vault.
    • The comedy and fanservice antics with the tracking devices sets up their serious use later on.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Waverly, showing up innocuously early on, comes back in a big way in the third act.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Subverted. Illya's "The Kiss" move is used once, in its introduction, and never again.
    • Played straight with Alexander's driving. He's first seen in person driving a racing car, in a semi-serious race. Of course, he's involved in a major car chase later on.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: We're introduced to Solo as he passes through a checkpoint between East and West Germany, and he has to take Gaby over the Berlin Wall when his cover is blown shortly after.
  • City of Spies: Berlin is filled with CIA and KGB operatives, which is Truth in Television. The ending points to another city that's also a Truth in Television example, Istanbul, caught right between NATO and the Soviet Union.
  • Cool Cars:
    • Played straight - when Napoleon pulls away a car cover to find a small dune-buggy-thing, he seems to disprove and moves onto another covered vehicle hoping it'd be more his style. That one turns out to be an even larger, more powerful version of the dune-buggy-thing, which he goes with.note  He uses it on flat land, uphill through slippery mud, over broken trees, and even hydroplanes it through a river.
    • Played with in the opening chase scene using a (anachronistic) Trabant 601 and Wartburg 1000, both decidedly not cool cars in reputation — but they've both been rigged to be much more capable than they should be.
  • Cool Shades: Gaby sports a Mod pair of oversize white plastic shades that wouldn't shame Twiggy.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When Victoria finds out that Solo is a spy, she drugs all of her alcohol, so no matter what he chooses will knock him out.
  • Cutting the Knot: Solo shows off special wire cutters that are made of super-hardened boron sharpened with a CO2 laser. Kuryakin one-ups him by immediately producing a portable CO2 laser.
  • Darker and Edgier: Both Solo and Kuryakin, as well as the film itself, compared to the series and its versions of the characters.
  • Dating Catwoman: Part of Solo's plan to get close to Victoria.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Along with Bait-and-Switch, a main foundation of the movie's humor. All the key characters - and most especially Napoleon and Illya - get off at least one good snark.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Gaby. She was recruited by the British SIS and spent two years working as a car mechanic in East Germany waiting for the Vinciguerra family to pick her up so she could infiltrate them. Instead, she got the CIA and the KGB fighting over her all while still maintaining her cover.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The hotel room argument between Illya and Gaby has one line that wouldn't have made the cut if this took place in the modern day, unless he was joking.
  • Disappeared Dad: Illya's father was sent to a gulag when Illya was only ten years old. Illya apparently then started having psychotic episodes.
  • Double Entendre: The source of several puns throughout the film.
    • When Sanders explains to Napoleon that the CIA will be teaming up with the KGB:
    Sanders: [In a public restroom, unzipping his fly to use the urinal] What I'm about to feed you, Solo, might taste a little bitter. Nevertheless, you're gonna have to swallow it.
    Napoleon: Super Agent here decided to have some fun with three young Italian boys in the mens' room.
    • When Illya switches on the Tracking Device hidden up Gaby's skirt, with the expected UST.
    Solo: All turned on now?
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The very drunk Gaby convinces Illya to dance with her, then slaps Illya twice and attacks him with no provocation or justification whatsoever. While the slaps visibly upset Illya (he'd just been forced to take a humiliating slap from muggers), the overall scene is Played for Laughs and ends with Illya accepting what he thinks is a romantic advance from Gaby. The pair go on have sexual chemistry through the rest of the film. There's no way the scene could have played in a mainstream film with the genders reversed.
  • Elevator Snare: Victoria and the agents race back to the plaza hotel to preserve their cover stories, Solo and Kuryakin run up a lengthy flight of stairs. Victoria simply takes the elevator.
  • Embarrassing Slide: When Ilya is being briefed on Solo, one of the slides in the accompanying slide show is upside down, to the embarrassment of the slide show operator.
  • Enemy Mine: The premise of the film: the CIA teams up with the KGB to stop a Fascist terrorist group with a nuclear bomb.
  • Epic Fail: Illya's attempt to discuss Italian architecture with Gaby doesn't go well. He claims the Spanish Steps were really built by a Russian architect who supposedly died during construction, and that the number of steps was equal to her age. Gaby points out that there are 135 steps. Illya tries to cover by claiming that the architect was 35 and his mother was 100, leading Gaby to ask if the woman had given birth at age sixty-five. Fortunately for Illya, he's saved from digging himself a deeper hole by Solo's arrival.
  • Exact Words: After Illya tells Napoleon, "Watch me work, Cowboy!" and Napoleon falls out of the boat... he swims onto the dock, climbs into a truck while all the attention is on his partner, eats someone's lunch and drinks their Chianti and literally watches as Illya evades but ultimately fails to escape the harbor.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Victoria cheerfully sleeps with another man but when her husband was killed and Solo deliberately tarnishes his name, her Berserk Button is pressed and she threatens painful revenge.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Vinciguerra gets close to the captured Solo and says she is looking forward to kill him, in a charming, seductive tone.
  • Femme Fatale: Victoria, oh so much. When she drugs Solo she curls up seductively next to him, among other things.
  • Finding the Bug: Napoleon finds a number of Russian-made bugs in his hotel room. When he confronts Illya about it, he responds by handing back all the American-made bugs he found in his room.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The best way to describe Solo and Kuryakin's arc. By the end they're pretty much Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the intro, it's shown that Gaby is an excellent driver and surprisingly coolheaded under fire. Which makes sense as she's herself an SIS operative.
    • Waverly is seen early at the Plaza Hotel, but not focused on as Solo is more concerned with the henchmen in the lobby. When Gaby places a call to a room in the hotel that is neither hers nor Solo's, deduction would show she's calling Waverly, before The Reveal of her status as an agent.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Uncle Rudi wears glasses (sometimes accessorized with removable shades when he's outdoors). In the torture scene, he talks in a perfectly affable, scholarly manner with Napoleon about his horrific career and how he plans to take color photographs of Solo's slow death by electrocution while his glasses glint in a thoroughly disturbing way.
  • Free Wheel: A hubcap falls off Illya's car after it crashes in East Berlin.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The credits, before showing scenes from the adventure in Istanbul, show the four lead's dossiers. Waverly is a recovering alcoholic and opium addict; Solo has "serial womanizer" listed for a "psychological problem"; Kuryakin is noted to have an Oedipus Complex, and Gaby is currently learning Russian.
  • Friendly Enemy: Downplayed with Solo and Kurayakin's bosses. While Solo and Kuryakin bicker and fight, their bosses are rather civil and cooperative to each other, even heartily shaking hands and being on a First-Name Basis. Of course, they're more than willing to immediately backstab the other when the mission looks like it's succeeding, but on a personal level they're still friendly.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: Both Napoleon and Illya get this toward the end of the movie: each of them get an order to retrieve the tape of information at all cost, and if necessary, kill the other one to do so. Yet to kill each other would mean killing a man they've come to respect. After Napoleon gives Illya his father's watch (that he got off one of the mooks) they decided to just burn the tape together instead. This is when Waverly comes to them with another job offer.
  • Fun with Acronyms: As in the TV series, U.N.C.L.E. stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.
  • Funny Background Event: Two of them. The first has Napoleon Solo casually enjoying a purloined snack with wine while his partner engages on a mayhem filled boat chase. The second as Solo and Kuryakin discuss what to do with Uncle Rudi, blissfully oblivious to the man burning up in his faulty electric torture device.
  • Gambit Pileup: Even though they have to work together to keep the fascists from getting an atomic bomb, it's clear that Solo and the CIA, Kuryakin and the KGB, and Gaby and MI5 all have their own ultimate agendas.
  • The Gulag: Illya's father was banished there after being caught embezzling state funds. His superiors threaten to send him there as well if he fails in his mission.
  • Headbutting Heroes: As expected of a CIA-KGB joint operation in the middle of the Cold War, Solo and Kuryakin have trouble working together.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • For someone established as a Terminator-esque brute, Illya demonstrates a refined knowledge of haute couture in the scene in the Berlin shop where he and Napoleon are bickering over how Gaby should be dressed. (This bit might also be seen as a Mythology Gag to the 1983 TV movie, "The Fifteen Years Later", where Illya is described as having taken up high-fashion design after leaving U.N.C.L.E.). He's also a chess master, photographer, powerboater and wrestling champion.
    • Underneath his charming exterior, Solo's a bit of a Smug Snake (making overconfident comments about the alarm, being particularly snippy to Illya about fashion and Soviet matters, which he clearly wouldn't know about as an outsider, as well as being a Jerk with a very well hidden heart of gold).
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard:
    • The tracker that Victoria put in the second warhead is used to destroy the first, killing her with it.
    • Uncle Rudi is killed by his own electric chair.
  • How Did You Know? I Didn't: When Napoleon asked how Victoria knew to drug that particular drink he grabbed, she admitted she just drugged them all.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Kuryakin absolutely towers over Gaby.
  • Husky Russkie. Kuryakin is a large, large man with a strong Russian accent and a deep voice.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Solo gets pissed at the Soviet bugs all over his clothes and hotel room, and goes to confront Kuryakin about them. Kuryakin hands over the American bugs he found in his stuff.
  • I Can't Dance: The sexual subtext version. When Gaby starts dancing in their hotel room, Kuryakin refuses to play along, stating that it's both because he can't dance and because he's not going to. Gaby then decides to wrestle him instead.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Saunders informs Solo he's well aware that the latter engages in off-the-books activities (noting Solo shouldn't be able to afford truffles to put in a risotto on the salary the CIA pays him).
    "Do not make the calamitous error of mistaking my deliberate short-sightedness for blindness."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The guards of Vinciguerra's factory never land a single shot on Solo and Kuryakin during their escape. Especially amusing how the guys on the patrol boat fail to hit Kuryakin's boat for a good 10 minutes while Solo calmly watches from a truck. They do eventually destroy it, though, and would have gotten its driver too if Solo hadn't intervened.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Solo and Kuryakin both demonstrate this in their opening confrontation, where they shoot out the tires of their respective cars with only their pistols at a considerable distance.
  • Improvised Weapon: Solo sinks a patrol boat by driving a truck on top of it! And later, Kuryakin throws the motorcycle he'd been riding at someone as an opener to hand-to-hand combat.
  • In-Series Nickname: Solo only ever refers to Illya as "Peril" which is short for "The Red Peril" and Illya only ever refers to Solo as "Cowboy."
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Gaby wears a bulky radio transmitter fastened to her garter under a very short dress; how she could even sit down without exposing the transmitter remains a mystery.
  • Inevitable Mutual Betrayal: An American and a Russian are working together to take down a third party and recover information which could give whoever has it the edge over pretty much anyone else. Given relations between the Soviets and American at the time, you know it's going to come down to this. The agents ultimately don't follow through with it because they've become fire-forged friends, and then they're officially teamed up in a joint taskforce.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Sarcastically subverted.
    Solo: Absolutely hated working with you, Peril.
    Kuryakin: You're a terrible spy, Cowboy.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Solo referring to the Implacable Man who runs down his car and wrenches off the trunk cover.
    "What was waiting for me was barely human. You should have seen it run."
    "I don't think you understand: it tore the back off my CAR."
  • It Meant Something to Me: At the end of the mission, Illya and Gaby prepare to part ways and she attempts to give him back her engagement/tracker ring. Instead, he gives it back to her and with a Longing Look and tells her to keep it as souvenir.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Downplayed to an Almost Kiss. The first Almost Kiss by Illya and Gaby happens at the end of a chain of events that started with Gaby making a serious effort at drinking an entire bottle of vodka all by herself. The reason it's an almost kiss is because she passes out before their lips connect.
  • Laser Cutter: Illya's CO2 laser is used to cut fence wires.
  • Last-Name Basis: As Solo notes, only his mother calls him Napoleon.
  • Leg Focus: When Gaby is trying to fix a tracker on her leg garter, Illya fumbles and comments that he's "trying not to get lost."
  • Love-Interest Traitor: Subverted with Gaby. We're hit with this later in the film, and while it appears at first that she really is in league with the Big Bad, this is actually just a ploy set up by Waverly, her boss. It doesn't stop Illya from appearing absolutely heartbroken, however.
  • MacGuffin: Professor Teller's notes, which describe a more efficient process for refining uranium, allowing the nation that has the process to build nuclear weapons at a greater rate than those that do not. In the end, both copies of the notes get destroyed.
  • Male Gaze: After Solo sleeps with the Italian hotel concierge (with a surprisingly good reason to),note  she gets out of bed, where both Solo and the camera get a nice shot of her walking away with her back toward the camera, wearing nothing but some white lace panties.
  • Men of Sherwood: The Royal Marines certainly qualify. In the Storming the Castle scene, they easily defeat Vinciguerra's guards while taking zero onscreen losses themselves.
  • The Mengele: Uncle Rudi, in what's arguably the film's darkest turn - he's got a special page reserved in his scrapbook just for the shiny new color pictures of experiments on Solo.
  • Mission Briefing: Several, in fact. Illya is briefed on Napoleon, complete with a Kodachrome slide show (which of course has one slide upside down). After teaming up, Napoleon and Illya are briefed together on the Vinciguerra family (this time with a manila folder). Later, Napoleon briefs Gaby about the plan to infiltrate the Vinciguerra estate. Napoleon's CIA handler, Sanders, and Illya's KGB handler, Oleg, serve as the Mr. Exposition.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film briefly takes a sudden and extreme turn for the dark as Uncle Rudi reveals the truth about his rise to power under the Nazi machine, explaining exactly what is to happen to Solo. Then Kuriyakin rescues Solo, they debate what to do with Rudi... and Rudi's chair settles the debate.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The hotel concierge. We get a nice shot of her walking away from the camera, dressed only in sexy panties.
  • Multinational Team: The UNCLE ends up like this by movie's end: they consist of a Brit, an American, a Russian and a German.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The "UNCLE Special" makes an appearance in the Storming the Castle scene.
    • Kuryakin wears his iconic black turtleneck at one point.
    • The soundtrack features a track called "The Vinciguerra Affair." Every episode of the TV series was named "The [Example] Affair."
    • Kuryakin's fashion knowledge references his retirement occupation from the reunion films. His insistence on dressing Gaby for their undercover mission is possibly a nod to the 1983 movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair, in which Illya has quit U.N.C.L.E. to become a successful fashion designer.
      Kuryakin: Soviet architect travelling to Rome would never dress his woman in the clothes you tried to put her in. You tried to dress her like someone on your side thinks someone dress behind the Iron Curtain.
      Solo: She is from behind the Iron Curtain.
      Kuryakin: That doesn't mean she wants to bring it with her. [To the boutique assistants:] We need two purses please, an everyday clutch and... grab that belt — no, not the Dior, the Rabanne.
      Solo: You can't put a Paco Rabanne belt on a Patou.
      Kuryakin: She's not going to wear a Patou.
      Solo: What's wrong with the Patou?
      Kuryakin: Nothing, if you're fat. The Dior goes with the Rabanne.
      Solo: It won't match.
      Kuryakin: It. Doesn't. Have. To. Match.
    • Illya's dossier states that he's proficient in Judo and Sambo. Judo was his main martial skill in the TV show.
    • When Napoleon sees some chemistry between Gaby and Illya, he purposely leaves them alone with each other. This is a reference to how Napoleon in the original series, would often take interest in the love lives of others, and enjoyed playing matchmaker.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Illya's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the three men in the Vinciguerra estate's bathroom winds up blowing everyone's cover.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: In the end, Solo and Kuryakin decide to burn Udo Teller's backup tape so they won't have to kill each other over it for their handlers — with a side of Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal for their poor treatment during the mission; after everything they went through, letting either side win the Cold War through nuclear brinksmanship did not appeal to either of them.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever caused Solo to be drugged unconscious before. It's taught him to lie down on pillows before collapsing, to avoid head injuries. It's possible he was talking about his first raid of the estate, where he jumped out of a window expecting water, but hit the pier.
  • Not So Stoic: Solo's casual cool breaks with a bit of nervousness and fear when being tortured by Uncle Rudi.
  • Offhand Backhand: While being mugged, Kuryakin briefly snaps and punches one of the thugs who's standing behind him. In the throat.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Used primarily with Solo for reveals to show how his tricks or stunts worked or played out and demonstrate how skillful he is.
  • One-Steve Limit: This is why Waverly's only referred to by his last name until his dossier is shown in the credits: the villain's husband is also named Alexander.
  • Overt Agent:
    • Kuryakin is introduced quite noticeably watching Solo. It's a set up so while Solo is distracted, the border guard can plant a tracer on his luggage.
    • However, the trope is also played straight for Illya on several occasions:
      • Punching a mugger in the throat despite pretending to be a harmless civilian architect.
      Solo: Not very good at this whole 'subtlety' thing, are you?
      Uncle Rudi: And did they make you build the Wall as well as design it? You're shaped like a power lifter, not an architect.
      Illya: I like to jog.
      • Starting a fight in the mens' room to vent his anger at Uncle Rudi. It is later implied this is what first made the Vinciguerras suspicious of them.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Referenced with the 'drug all the drinks' trick, though Victoria doesn't drink herself, simply telling Solo to go ahead as she's on the phone.
  • Polyamory: The Vinciguerra's apparently practice it. Victoria sleeps with Solo, while Alexander tries to seduce Gabby (much to Illya's ire).
  • Prequel: The movie serves to answer the question (never addressed in the series) as to how agents from the United States and the Soviet Union came to team up during the height of the Cold War.
  • Publicly Discussing the Secret:
    • Subverted; the KGB and CIA spymasters are briefing the protagonists in a cafe, announce they're going to leave them alone to get acquainted, and get up to leave...along with everyone else in the cafe, as all the other customers are their agents.
    • Played straight when the trio discusses their mission and cover stories in/on the street outside the West Berlin fashion boutique and outside the hotel in Rome.
    • Deliberately invoked by Napoleon on several occasions to troll Illya.
      Illya, when Napoleon approaches him and Gaby at the Spanish Steps: You're not supposed to make contact in public!
      Illya, when Napoleon knocks on his hotel room door: What are you doing?! You're not supposed to be here!
  • Punny Name: Uncle Rudi is a rude person.
  • Reconstruction: Of '60s spy-fi. With spy fiction in general taking a deconstruction-heavy turn since the start of the 21st century in part thanks to the Bourne films and most adaptations of '60s spy shows (i.e. I Spy, the 1998 Avengers film) played for self-parody and comedy, this averts that. The seriousness of the Cold War is played straight (with the CIA and KGB presented in a very Stale Beer nature), the threat of post-war Western Terrorists treated seriously (with the gadgets and henchmen justified due to their wealth), and simple gadgets, but also showing how more Martini-flavored agents work in the Cold War, and how they're best equipped to deal with the most dangerous threats. Yes, they're a Boxed Crook and soldier-turned-spy with a dark past, but because they're the best in their agencies, they have numerous talents and Hidden Depths, elevating them beyond simple plants in a city or intel gatherers. Even the cinematography and subtitles mimic the look of '60s spy films.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Both Solo and Kuryakin put a lot of thought and care into their appearances, and even get into an argument over what kind of fashion Gaby should dress in when going undercover in Italy.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: The CIA recruited Solo because they saw his talents as an art thief as useful towards collecting intelligence.
  • Red Baron: Solo dubs Illyia "The Red Peril" and Illya likewise dubs Solo "The Cowboy". According to Victoria, Uncle Rudi has a variety of nicknames, chiefly "The Fifth Horseman", "The Doctor of the Apocalypse", "The Butcher from Belsen", "The Black Angel from Bergen".
  • Red Herring: Ruined by Trailers Always Spoil, but Waverly is introduced at the Vinciguerra party, being quite chummy with the bad guys. He's a good guy in the end.
    • That there's a backup of the tape the CIA and KGB want Napoleon and Illya to get respectively, bringing up the possibility that they both might get a copy and not possibly have to kill each other. Then one copy gets blown up with Victoria.
    • Just after Kuryakin and Gaby are mugged by Victoria's men to see if they really are who they say they are, the hotel concierge shows up at Solo's door with complementary champagne the hotel forgot to give when he first checked it. When Solo asks her to join him, she's very nervous, suggesting the drink is poisoned. It turns out to be normal champagne and an excuse for Solo to continue to be The Casanova.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Napoleon Solo is the Blue Oni (a suave and analytical CIA operative) and Illya Kuryakin is the Red Oni (a hot-blooded KGB agent who often seems to be only just keeping his emotions in check).
  • Revealing Skill: Two thugs are sent to rob Gaby and her 'fiance' to see if he really is a harmless civilian. Illya tries to hold his temper, but snaps and knocks down one of the men, arguing later that a KGB agent would have killed them, but any Russian would have at least done that much.
  • Revealing Reflection: Solo is at the customs station going into East Berlin when he notices a Russian following him in a camera flash reflector. Later that turns out to have been deliberate so the customs agent could slip a bug into his suitcase while he was distracted.
  • Safecracking: One area where Solo is indisputably more talented than Illya. However, he makes the mistake of assuming that the safe he's working on wasn't modified after purchase, resulting in him setting off an alarm that isn't part of the standard features in that particular model of safe.
  • Scenery Gorn: East Berlin is still a bit rundown...
  • Scenery Porn: ...while West Berlin and Rome look wonderful, and the film wants you to know that.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The trawler crew dive overboard, hoping to escape Death from Above.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Proving that appearances can be deceptive, in terms of personality, Illya is the Sensitive Guy to Napoleon's Manly Man.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: While even in her Wrench Wench gear Gaby has a strong Unkempt Beauty thing going on for her, when she first steps out in her snazzy mini dress at the West German boutique, both Napoleon and Ilya seem to be truly taken away.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man:
    • Napoleon is almost always beautifully dressed in elegant, bespoke three-piece suits, except when he's wearing the appropriate gear for infiltrating or assaulting an enemy stronghold - and he looks really good in those outfits, too. Lampshaded by Gaby as soon as they meet:
      Gaby: You look important. Or, at least, your suit does.
    • Illya, as befits a proper Soviet secret agent, dresses in a more "proletarian" manner, but his clothes are well-fitting and well-tailored; on one occasion, he rocks the black turtleneck sweater that was so indelibly associated with the character in the original show. Both men have a keen sense of women's fashion as well, as demonstrated in the Berlin haute-couture shop scene.
  • Shown Their Work: Illya's dossier says he's proficient in Sambo, and he demonstrate a few moves early on in the bathroom fight.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Uncle Rudi is revealed to be the source of three separate The Mengele legends.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The '60s: Probably wisely, Ritchie decided to simply set the film in the same period that the show was on rather than try to duplicate the Cold War politics in modern times.
  • Skewed Priorities: When an extremely valuable informant dies in a fire, Solo's first reaction is to lament that his suit jacket will also get burnt.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Or Slap Slap Almost Kiss, in the dance scene between Gaby and Illya. There's a remarkably literal version when Gaby drunkenly gets Illya to dance with her. She takes the unenthusiastic Illya's hand and makes him slap himself. She then wrestles him to the ground, where they Almost Kiss, but Gaby passes out before anything happens, much to Illya's chagrin.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Illya plays a solitaire chess game in the scene where Gaby tries to seduce him, and in the dossier excerpts seen in the end credits, he's reported to be an internationally-ranked chess master.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: While Illya is being chased by the Vinciguerra guards, Napoleon relaxes in a truck, eating a worker's lunch.
  • Spaghetti and Gondolas: The great majority of the movie is set in La Dolce Vita-era Rome and its suburbs.
  • Split Screen:
    • When Napoleon and Illya infiltrate the Vinciguerra factory, Napoleon goes to one part and Illya the other. The screen is then stylistically halved (or thirded) to show what each man is up to.
    • Split screen is also used in the Storming the Castle scene, enabling the focus to remain on the subsequent Chase Scene between our heroes and the villain.
  • Spy Fiction: Of the Dirty Martini type, the film's strong sense of style and glamour evoke the Martini flavor in the most classic sense; however Solo and Kuryakin's bosses are much more Stale Beer in nature, from attire to attitude. Even the CIA's safehouse in West Berlin is a bit run down. As well as Solo's entire reason for being in the CIA, being a Boxed Crook, make him a Stale Beer Spy wearing a Martini Spy's clothes.
  • Sticky Fingers: Solo is a thief. It comes in handy in getting close to Victoria.
  • Stock Footage: John F. Kennedy's 1963 Commencement Speech at American University plays on the television in Napoleon's West Berlin safehouse.
  • The Stoic: Solo never loses his cool, unlike Kuryakin. The prospect of getting electrically tortured by Uncle Rudy however, understandably, is an exception.
  • Storming the Castle: With the action condensed to avoid filler, focusing instead on the car chase immediately following the castle being stormed.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Gaby. After getting drunk and misunderstanding a comment by Illya as a challenge to wrestle, the shot cuts to the hallways where various sounds of crashing can be heard for quite a while. Cut back to Gaby pinning Illya down, and he's having some problems breaking from her grasp. Considering she passes out second's later, she might be weaker there than she really is.
  • Take a Third Option: Both Solo and Kuryakin are tasked with recovering Professor Teller's research, at any cost. When they decide they don't want to kill each other, they burn it while sharing scotch and enjoying the Roman view. When Waverly walks in and sees the burning disc, he states his approval.
  • Team Shot: Played with, the very last shot of the film cuts to silhouettes of the newly formed U.N.C.L.E...only with Gaby, Illya, and Napoleon flabbergasted and wincing instead of the classic dignified unity shot in cool poses.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The expected outcome of the CIA, the KGB, and the British Secret Intelligence Service teaming up.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Uncle Rudi, while Professor Teller was a non-believer in fascism who was blackmailed to working for the Nazis. The Vinciguerras, including by-marriage Victoria Vinciguerra, are Italian fascists.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Gaby is a mechanic who wears pajamas to bed and has a unisex nickname. Victoria is a socialite wife who wear negligees and fancy jewelry on a regular basis.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Kuryakin and Gaby pretend to be engaged as part of their cover. Neither of them are thrilled at first but as they warm up to each other, they start to take their roles a bit too seriously. Especially Kuryakin.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The young Italian men in the bathroom fall victim to this trope when they tease and ignore the 6'5'' Russian man who just needs to them move so he can use the sink.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • When Illya and Napoleon finally see Uncle Rudi on fire from his own torture device they're rather blasé. Solo's only expression of annoyance is that he left his suit jacket in the room.
    • Earlier, Solo's casual viewing, while having a snack, of Kuryakin's fiery boat chase.
  • Was It All a Lie?: After Gaby apparently betrays them, Solo attempts to comfort a distraught Kuryakin whose feelings for her had become genuine over the course of their pretend relationship. Kuryakin's response is probably the closest he gets to an Anguished Declaration of Love.
    Solo: She fooled me too.
    Kuryakin: IT'S NOT THE SAME!
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: Defied by Napoleon, who makes contact with Illya several times while undercover even though he's not supposed to, mostly to chide him.
    • Played straight for Gaby and Waverly.
  • Wham Line: Quoth Gaby — "Because my fiancé is a KGB agent, and the man your wife has been entertaining works for the CIA...The Russians and the Americans thought they were using me but I was using them to get to you."
    • And immediately before that, quoth Victoria — “This Jr fault wasn’t in your performance, Mister Solo. Is was Gaby you couldn’t control. She gave you up like an unwanted kitten.”
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Gaby asks this when Kuryakin is grappling with the back of their vehicle. Despite the opportunity, Solo is so bemused and impressed with his pursuer's determination he's unable to bring himself to do so.
  • Worthy Opponent: Illya, during the East Berlin chase sequence. After successfully distracting Napoleon to allow his suitcase to be bugged, dodging Napoleon's point-blank headshots, keeping up with Gaby's driving, blowing out their car tire at a considerable distance with a single bullet, running down the car on foot and almost stopping it using just his hands and feet, Napoleon refuses to take an easy shot at him because it would be unsportsmanlike.
    Gaby: Why don't you take a shot at him?
    Solo: Somehow, it just doesn't seem like the right thing to do.
  • Wrench Wench: Gaby, who runs a auto chop shop in East Berlin.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The KGB briefing states that Solo joined the US army at the age of 18. The file shown in the end credits shows him as having been born in 1929, and joined the army in 1945.
  • You Are Already Dead: A totally epic variation. During Solo's last conversation with Victoria, she explains how she's going to kill him and everyone he knows for killing her husband, and vows this course of action on her husband's soul. Solo replys by telling her that simply by answering the radio signal, she inadvertently set every last piece of action into play and that the fake warhead (Which is a real, though non-nuclear bomb) will be with her before she can make it to shore. She looks up, and BOOM!
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness
    • Once Victoria has a completed bomb and the files detailing how to make more, she kills Professor Teller.
    • Solo and Kuryakin are both ordered to invoke this on their partner if that is what it takes to get Teller's notes once the mission is over. Solo chooses to Take a Third Option: burn the backup copy with Illya witnessing.
  • Your Mom: Solo delivers a genuinely scathing one during his first conversation with Illya.
    Solo: I do wonder if it was your father's shame that gave you such drive, though. Or... was it your mother's reputation. I understand that she was extremely popular amongst your father's friends.

Nicely done.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Man From UNCLE


Solo's Backstory

The Russian handler explains Napoleon Solo's past: an American soldier turned criminal turned top CIA agent after he was caught.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoxedCrook

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