The latest film from Guy Ritchie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is out, but is it worth the hype? Read the GS review here!
In this reboot of the 60s series of the same name, The Man From U.N.C.L.E sees Russian spy, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) paired with American spy and C.I.A worker, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill). Both are at opposite ends of the spectrum: Kurykin has anger management issues and plays by the rules, while Solo is the American agent who can charm his way out of any situation and likes to do his own thing.
We first meet Solo in 1963 attempting to smuggle a woman by the name of Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of Hitler’s fav rocket scientist, over the Berlin Wall. Kuryakin is trying to stop them. A chaotic car chase ensues and eventually they make it over the Wall. Teller is a mechanic (yay women’s lib) and she offers to fix a race car later on after some snarky comment from a driver, but apart from that her skill under the bonnet is not explored any further.
From then on it’s a case of beating up baddies, seducing women and trying to save the world from the villain Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), who’s plan is to control the world with an atomic bomb (built by Teller’s father) and get lots of money in the process. Hugh Grant makes an appearance as Waverly, the British side in all this, who has some terrific one-liners.
Teller’s quick wit and brains often save the audience from the bland and little chemistry that Cavill and Hammer have together onscreen. The jokes are fun, but Cavill’s delivery and sometimes trying performance means they often fall flat. Perhaps if he and Hammer switched roles, it could have worked?
What the film lacks in plot, action and onscreen chemistry, it more than makes up for in glamour: the costumes, the cars, the score and the locations. Every character is dressed to impress, all decked out in glamorous dresses and suits from the 60s. Costume designer Joanna Johnston has done an incredible job. The argument Solo and Kuryakin have about what clothes Teller should be dressed in is charming and witty. Small debates like this throughout the film, mainly with regards to what gadget is better, the Russian one or the American one? I have a soft spot for classic cars. Seeing the wide range of automobiles (including Fiat 500) was wonderful: all beautiful, shiny and in keeping with the era. To accompany the action is the perfect soundtrack: jumpy, relevant to the era and also adds comical value to an underwater rescue that Solo first observes from a truck while eating and drinking a lunch someone left behind.
Finally, the locations. Ah the locations. Mostly set in Italy, they are stunning. Rome, grand houses with perfect gardens and a remote island where all the evil science stuff happens (obviously).
Apart from a couple of impressive car chases and some badass but unlikely stunt driving, the action isn’t too convincing and doesn’t really evolve throughout the film. Seeing as Ritchie bought us fast paced action in Sherlock Holmes, you would expect the same from The Man From U.N.C.L.E, no? The last third of the film can be summarised in this conversation:
Russia: “We were playing you.”
US: “No… We were playing you!”
Britain: “Look, chaps. We were playing both of you. Now shake hands and make up, we’ve got a girl and the world to save.”
Cue all the split-screens, epic music and saving the world. It’s a pretty good baddie bust up finale. Ritchie leaves it wide open for a sequel, but is this the right way to go? With more plot development in a follow-up, more explosions and more action, yes: it could be a winner. But if there’s no chemistry between actors in the first film, is it possible to build on that or is it something you can’t fix?
It isn’t the big action packed; fast paced story we know Ritchie is capable of (look at Sherlock Holmes). The Man From U.N.C.L.E is full of promises, but covers up its many flaws with glitz and glamour. All style, no substance.
GS Rating: 3/5
GS Blogger: Jess Hawke
Image Source: Warner Bros