THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
** (out of 5)
August 14, 2015
Henry Cavill as SOLO
Armie Hammer as ILLYA
Alicia Vikander as GABY
Elizabeth Debiki as VICTORIA
Luca Calvani as ALEXANDER
Sylvester Groth as UNCLE RUDI
Hugh Grant as WAVERLY
Jared Harris as SANDERS
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
BY KEVIN CARR
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While he hasn’t always made great movies, Guy Ritchie’s films have certainly been entertaining. He is a fiercely visual and stylized filmmaker with great use of action and editing. Even a less-than-great film from his repertoire like “RocknRolla” is a pretty easy one to watch.
It’s not surprising that “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is entirely watchable without being entirely great at the same time.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” hasn’t seen the big screen in decades, originally a popular TV show in the 1960s which had a few big screen releases of extended episodes similar to what was done with “Bonanza” around the same time as well as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” later in the 70s. It’s been on a shelf long enough that Ritchie could come in to revamp the whole thing without stepping on too many toes of the faithful fans.
Ritchie made a smart move to set the film in the era of its original cycle, which is 1963. This was in the middle of the Cold War and allowed him to have the appropriate tensions between the main stars, a CIA agent named Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and a KGB agent named Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer).
In the film, these two team up to stop a nuclear weapon from falling into the hands of the wrong people. Along for the ride is an East German defector named Gaby (Alicia Vikander), who poses as Kuryakin’s wife undercover in western Europe.
The most notable thing about this film is how brilliant it looks. The set design is gorgeous. The locations are lush and beautiful. The costume design is smart and snappy, using a 60s mod design that fells oh-so-rich in this era of nostalgia. Even the titling of the movie and the graphic design is stark and powerful.
Of course, the cast is also one of the most attractive casts you’ll see this year. Cavill and Hammer are eye candy for the ladies while Vikander and the villainous Elizabeth Dibicki provide plenty of curves for the guys.
However, they are nothing more than dressed up mannequins. There’s very little character depth in the script. Cavill’s version of Solo is almost a parody of James Bond smugness without the personality. Hammer’s Kuryakin is passable even if his accent has a little too much “Moose and Squirrel” to it. However, can someone remind me why this guy is a movie star? He has very little personality on screen, and his chemistry with Vikander is virtually nonexistent.
To make things worse in the script department, the story is simultaneously convoluted and cliche. It borrows its premise from a throw-away joke in the “Austin Powers” movies (i.e., Dr. Evil saying, “Oh hell, let’s just do what we always do. Hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage”), offering nothing new, aside from a few neat twists down the road. However, with such a simple premise, the team hops around the globe like a hyperactive child in a candy story, and it just doesn’t seem to matter where they are as long as they look great doing it.
While “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is easily one of the best looking films of the year, it seems very similar to dating a supermodel: equally gorgeous and vapid.