Other than a period detailed nod to 60’s spy films and some deft directorial choices, The Man from U.N.C.L.E offers nothing else – it’s a lifeless spy flick with a pair of good looking dudes bickering like an old married couple.
At the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the evildoers in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe.
Hollywood continues to mine vintage material in the hopes of making money from its novelty. After Sherlock Holmes, which became more homoerotic with each follow-up, Ritchie adapts The Man from U.N.C.L.E. from the small to the big screen.
The movie is splattered with 60’s pastiche that will go over its target demographic’s heads, but its still an amusing bit of history lesson. The summer flick is slick with retro cool through detailed production design, jazzy soundtrack and amusing villains.
The plot is straightforward unlike Ritchie’s signature work and doesn’t take itself too seriously with cheeky humor. There’s a play by play exposition but the movie manages to make it amusing. Apart from the double entrende, the bromance is subtly filled with subtext. In one scene Napoleon claims to pick the top lock, forcing Illya to bend down to take the bottom.
The movie is able to fully capture the look of the period. It’s elegantly shot with split screens that provide otherwise impossible views. There’s some witty visuals here, such as a scene where Napoleon takes a sandwich break while Illya is stuck in an ill-fated boat chase. Later on the two chase after a nuclear warhead with two different type of vehicles, the camera zooming from above to give you a suspenseful look on who reaches it first.
Ritchie is intent on making another fun caricature of a period, but he’s not committed enough to make a memorable tribute, adaptation, or a serviceable summer action flick.
There’s a significant lack of spy shenanigans as the movie is more preoccupied with its bickering couple. No, not the adorable Alicia Vikander and straight outta shaving cream commercial Armie Hammer. He and Cavill argue and take a dig at each other but they don’t have chemistry. They’re both given personalities that they don’t have in real life but remains flat throughout the movie. The script makes an effort to establish Gabby as an equal with the boys but obviously, this is the introduction to their bromance story. Unfortunately, even that story is flat too as their characters are never really against each other despite their missions.
The movie has little interest in action and compensates with camera tricks. There’s no sense of danger nor urgency to move the plot forward and grab you by the edge of your seat. The Man from U.N.C.L.E coasts entirely on its looks and its mannequin poster boys which is not enough considering what it’s up against. It’s easily knocked down by Rogue Nation who has a far more charismatic lead and gripping action scenes. From the trailer alone, it doesn’t deserve to be compared with Spectre.
Overall, Man from U.N.C.L.E is as pretty but bland as its leads. You wouldn’t kick them out of bed and fun for the night, but you’ve already forgotten their names even before they walked out of the door.
My Rating: 5/10