Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Written by: Dee Pilgrim

Guy Ritchie’s films tend to be all glitzy trousers and no knickers – slick, sleek affairs with plenty of visual ‘wow’ factor but not necessarily much going on beneath the high polish of the surface.

Henry Cavill in The Man from UNCLE

Henry Cavill

His newest endeavour, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, based on the 1960s TV series, bears all the hallmarks of a classic Ritchie film; great clothes and set pieces, cool music, beautiful actors, sophisticated settings – and that’s it.

Really, there is nothing more to this film than those ingredients because what Mr Ritchie and his co-writer Lionel Wigram have singularly failed to do is write a script with any depth, breadth, diverging plotlines or gasp out loud surprises. What you see is what you get – a mildly entertaining movie with no soul or even (and this is a terrible omission in a film that is meant to be about mismatched buddy buddies) developing characters that actually bond.

Pretty boys Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer play the opposing secret agents – Napoleon Solo from the CIA and Ilya Kuryakin from the KGB – who are forced to put their differences aside as they battle to keep Eastern German mechanic Gaby (the utterly ravishing Alicia Vikander) safe as she travels to Rome to try and track down her estranged father, a nuclear scientist who may be about to build a nuclear bomb for people neither America nor Russia really want to have it.

But, where you’d expect Ritchie to build up the rivalry and the hostility between his two main protagonists before staging a rapprochement prior to the thrilling finale, Solo and Kuryakin’s relationship is never fully developed.

That’s not the only problem with the film; what should be very witty, acerbic dialogue never has the bite or the comic touch to be urbane enough for Napoleon Solo, while a kitsch, split-screen montage meant to act as an homage to 1960s films, actually seems rather clunky and amateur.

So, what should have been sophisticated, cutting-edge, even a tongue-in-cheek nod to the swinging sixties, ends up being nothing more than a fashion show.  This is a great shame as it is obvious the film has been set up as the first in a series of Man From U.N.C.L.E flicks, but on the strength (weakness) of this one, I very much doubt a sequel will be in the pipeline.

Author: Dee Pilgrim

Dee always knew she wanted to make her living from writing and so trained as a journalist before working for a variety of music and women’s titles including Sounds, Company, Cosmopolitan, Ms London, New Woman, and Girl About Town. After going freelance she concentrated on celebrity interviews and film, theatre, music and restaurant reviews. Her love of film goes back to her very first cinema experience at the age of five when her mother took her to see Bambi. She cried. At one time she was the Film Editor for NOW magazine and also the secretary for the film section of the Critics’ Circle and the celebrity coordinator for its annual film awards’ event. She has written a number of books for teenagers through Trotman Publishing, including five Real Life Guides to vocational careers (including Carpentry, Plumbing and Catering), and also three books on Real Life Issues (Money, Bereavement and Self Harm). Her favourite film is still Bladerunner.

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