Monday, 17 August 2015

Film Review: The Man From UNCLE

Suave spies and femme fatales - Guy Ritchie's The Man From UNCLE is a gleeful throwback to the stylish spy films of yesteryear. 

Adapted from a 60's TV show of the same name (think Get Smart without the goofiness), The Man From UNCLE is Ritchie's first film since 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Set during the height of the Cold War, the film sees a thief turned CIA agent, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), team up with a brutish KGB agent, Illya Kurakyin (Armie Hammer), to stop a rogue organisation lead by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) from detonating a highly-destructive nuclear weapon. Together they must protect a young East German mechanic called Gaby (Alicia Vikander), who may potentially hold the key to saving the world...

It may not have the cheekiness of Kingsman, or the eye-popping stunts of Mission Impossible, but The Man From UNCLE does have plenty of cool ingredients to forge its own distinct identity amongst the crowded secret agent scene.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer make for an entertaining and comedic duo, not unlike Jude Law and Downey Jnr in Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes series. Cavill is the star of the show, as he plays the smooth-talking ladies man that is Napoleon Solo. His American accent might be a bit naff, but Cavill has fun with the role; his slight smirk and steely gaze would be right at home in a 007 movie, and boy, does that man fill out a suit. It's no secret that Cavill auditioned for Bond back before Casino Royale, and this film is a glimpse at how his 007 would've looked - absolutely killer. 

Meanwhile, Armie Hammer feels a little miscast as cold KGB killer Illya; his monotone voice and blank expressions are played up for laughs, but he does look a little out of place at times. That being said, his character compliments Cavill's really well, and they make for an amusing odd couple who're bundled together against their wishes. Alicia Vikander assumes the role of sassy sidekick, whilst Elizabeth Debicki is the evil baroness out to destroy the world; both of these roles are written pretty thinly, but the two talented actresses make it work in their favour, especially Vikander.

Ritchie's directorial flair is stamped across this film; on more than one occasion Ritchie throws in a flashy action montage with comic book paneling and smooth 60's sounds, with the jazzy soundtrack covering everything from Roberta Flack ('Compared to What') to Solomon Burke ('Cry To Me') and Nina Simone ('Take Care of Business').

Where The Man From UNCLE really excels is in the costume and set design; the array of stylish 1960's outfits and decor gives this film a really vivid and distinct look and feel. From the retro car club scene that channels classic Grand Prix era heroes like Graham Hill to the high-fashion storefronts of Rome, this is one film that delivers suave style in spades.

However, a lot of these positives are superficial, and Ritchie's film simply doesn't have the substance to support it. The plot is paper thin, and something that we've seen a million times before. The various twists and turns don't tear up the rulebook, and a third act revelation concerning Vikander's character is less of a surprise and more of a formality.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

Fun, frivolous and inconsequential, The Man From UNCLE is a charming flashback to classic Fleming era Bond that isn't particularly heavy on plot. Cavill and Vikander impress, whilst Hammer looks out of sorts in another TV show adaptation.

The Man From UNCLE is in cinemas across Australia now.


  1. It definitely looked cool, but I was a bit bored by it.

    1. Yeah, I can see why people would think that - it did lack that extra drop of buzz that Ritchie brought to something like the Sherlock Holmes series. Thanks for commenting! :)

  2. Great review! Might give this one a go, if time permits. Otherwise will have to wait for the DVD.

    1. It's pretty good - not the best in terms of action, but really great to look at! :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...