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.
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.