This Guy Ritchie Movie Gave Henry Cavill His Career-Defining Moment – S

Henry Cavill wearing sunglasses in The Man From UNCLE

Henry Cavill is one of the most popular actors currently working in Hollywood. A mainstay in modern geek culture, this brawny performer has made quite an impression on the current zeitgeist. His performance as the DCEU’s Superman thrust him into the celebrity stratosphere, leading to a plethora of iconic characters. Since donning the spandex, Cavill has become known for his work on Netflix’s The Witcher, garnering acclaim as Geralt of Riveria. He has become one of the industry’s most bankable leads, beloved by fans for his respect towards fantasy and sci-fi. However, Henry Cavill was not always the cherished pop culture icon he is today. His early work was heavily divisive until a note-worthy British auteur gave him a career-defining role.

Directed by Guy Richie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a sleek spy caper released in 2015. A stylish update of the 1964 television show, the film starred Henry Cavil as Napoleon Solo, a suave CIA agent. Assigned the mission of his career, Solo begrudgingly teams up with Ilya Kurkin, a cold Russian operative. Bitter rivals, the two must put aside their differences for the greater good. While Man From U.N.C.L.E bombed in theaters, its reputation has grown in recent years. New fans continue to discover this delightful piece of pop art, developing a loyal following. Henry Cavil’s performance is one of the film’s high points and showcases his true versatility as a lead.

Guy Ritchie Gave Henry Cavill a Chance to Show off his Charm

Henry Cavill is Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are on a moped
Henry Cavill looks offscreen in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Henry Cavill rides a moped in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

It’s easy to forget that Henry Cavill wasn’t always recognized as a great actor. In the early days of his career, he could easily be considered one of Hollywood’s most divisive leading men. While Man of Steel put him on the map, Cavill’s performance wasn’t especially well received. Many critics lambasted his take on Superman, frequently citing his limited range and lack of charisma as major issues. Director Zack Snyder’s dour sensibilities weren’t a good fit for Henry Cavill’s unique talents, obscuring his skill as a performer. Thankfully, Guy Ritchie played to Cavil’s strengths in The Man From U.N.C.L.E..

Napoleon Solo is everything a viewer could want from an action lead. Charming and witty, he’s the kind of character that commands the screen with his magnetic charisma. Henry Cavill is the perfect fit for this kind of role and elevates the part beyond a James Bond expy. He delivers a sly, funny performance teeming with personality, harkening back to classic performers like Cary Grant or Warren Beatty. Carrying himself with effortless suave, Cavill’s wry delivery perfectly fits the film’s breezy tone. Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an irreverent take on the spy genre, favoring double entendres over high stakes. Cavill understands this perfectly and plays Napoleon with a light touch that elevates Guy Ritchie’s frothy aesthetic.

Henry Cavill Gave Guy Ritchie His Most Progressive Lead

Guy Ritchie is a director whose work has become its own genre. Debuting to strong reviews with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie immediately carved out a niche in the action genre. Making a name for himself with stylish crime thrillers like Snatch and RocknrollaRitchie quickly garnered a reputation as the British Quentin Tarantino. Much like his American counterpart, this screwball auteur was drawn to stories with over-the-top violence and quirky ensemble casts. However, Guy Ritchie lacked Tarantino’s self-reflective nuance, fully embracing the masculinity his chief inspiration tends to deconstruct. The filmmaker tends to glamorize toxic machismo, promoting avatars of traditional masculine values. Napoleon Solo stands out in comparison, thanks in large part to Henry Cavill’s performance.

Upon first glance, Man From U.N.C.L.E possesses all the hallmarks of Ritchie’s masculine overture of cinematic works. The film is first and foremost a flashy showcase for men as action heroes. With his womanizing and snarky banter, Napoleon Solo could easily come across as an insufferable power fantasy for insecure viewers. Many James Bond films have fallen down the rabbit hole of endorsing these characters and their misogynistic worldviews. While Man From U.N.C.L.E. isn’t a piece of feminist genre reconstruction, it does poke fun at its protagonist. Henry Cavill is in on the joke and plays a lot of his character’s Americana values for laughs.

Like many of Ritchie’s most famous works, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a comedy at its core. Unlike other examples of his filmography, like The Gentlemen, this film mines humor at the expense of its lead. Cavill’s performance may be dashing and suave, but he plays the part like a petty fool in parts. Richitie gets a lot of laughs from Illya and Napoleon’s bickering, framing them as a pair of petty children against a spy backdrop. Taking advantage of his comedic chops, Cavill playfully over-exaggerates his character’s arrogance, deflating his image as a male savior. In doing so, the performer gives Ritchie a chance to show how he’s evolved as a filmmaker.

Man From U.N.C.L.E. Is Some of Guy Ritchie’s Best Work

Henry cavil in man from uncle
Henry cavil in man from uncle Henry Cavill in Man From Uncle Henry Cavill rides a boat at night in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Ever since his first film, Guy Ritchie has become synonymous with flashy visuals. His trademarks include razor-sharp editing and kinetic camera movement, blending gangster violence with cartoonish slapstick. Snatch is quite possibly the director’s most successful endeavor and maintains a loyal cult following to this day. That being said, Guy Ritchie has struggled matching his past success, directing several critical misfires since relasing his masterpiece. Revolver and Swept Away were lambasted as embarrassments, and many critics wrote Ritchie off as a one-trick pony. In recent years, the auteur has tried pushing his visual style further, experimenting with his chaotic brand of filmmaking. Man From U.N.C.L.E. represents a big step forward for Ritchie as a filmmaker.

A big proponent of rapid-fire cuts and montage momentum, Guy Ritchie’s filmography is famous for his breakneck pace. His direction is perfect for screwball comedy yet an inconstant fit for action. Ritchie’s obsession with his style frequently gets in the way of his violence, sacrificing geography for flash. On the contrary, Man From U.N.C.L.E is some of the cleanest direction of his career. Trading hyperactive cutting for stylized split-screen editing, Ritchie maintains his trademark flair without sacrificing visual clarity. Compared to his early works, Man From U.N.C.L.E shows signs of mature growth. Free from the baggage of his own juvenile tendencies, Ritchie has fun exploring the homoerotic undertones of the buddy-cop genre.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is the culmination of a cheeky career-long fascination with male dynamics. Intentionally or otherwise, many of Guy Ritchie’s studio blockbusters are drenched in homosexual undertones. His Sherlock Holmes duology marked the start of Ritchie’s queer approach to buddy comedies. Deeply devoted to each other and endearingly snippy, Holmes and Watson are framed like bickering lovers. The sequel even abandons the great detective’s heterosexual love interest in favor of focusing on their dynamics. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pushes this queer subtext even further, rivaling Top Gun in terms of suppressed innuendo.

Napoleon and Illya have more in common with an old married couple than they do with a prototypical buddy-cop duo. They bicker and snip at each other over the pettiest things, yet prove steadfast comrades by the film’s end. Ritchi’s trademark banter remains sharp as a tack, but the verbal barbs are presented in a much different context. The two spies debate everything from appropriate fashion to battle tactics, yet their chemistry is undeniable. Even Henry Cavill’s co-star mentioned that the two spies were in love with each other. Nothing intimate ever materializes on screen, but it’s hard to deny how blatant queerness is baked into the script.

Man From U.N.C.L.E is a Career HIghlight for all Involved

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Official Trailer 2 (Trailer)

Henry Cavill was in desperate need of a win in 2015. While Zack Snyder’s superhero tentpole gave him a big career boost, it undersold his talent as a performer. Many refused to take Cavill seriously, chastising him as a wooden actor getting by on his physique. Likewise, Guy Richie was looking to break into the Hollywood blockbuster scene, having found great success with his Sherlock Holmes movies. With Henry Cavill, the British filmmaker found a perfect muse for a star-driven vehicle. Man From U.N.C.L.E. showcased Cavil and Ritchie in a new light despite its initially tepid reception.

Genre throwbacks are inherently difficult to pull off. That being said, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a delightfully old-school motion picture. Ritchie is working at the top of his game, providing a brevity of style and delightfully snappy dialogue. Likewise, the film finally gave Henry Cavill the chance to prove that he’s a versatile leading man. Napoleon Solo requires the charisma of Sean Connery with a deft comedic touch, and Cavill does so flawlessly. The performer has a great time sinking his teeth into Man From U.N.C.L.E‘s queer-coded charms. In doing so, Henry Cavil delivers the performance of a lifetime.

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