"The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2015
Running Time: 116 minutes
Attempts to turn an ultra-cool spy TV series from the 1960s into a viable big-screen franchise fail more often than a Bond villain’s bid for world domination. Think The Avengers, I Spy, and The Saint. Mission: Impossible is the exception to the rule, and even then it took several sequels before Ethan Hunt came into his own. Now comes The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from director Guy Ritchie, who previously rebooted Sherlock Holmes for a generation weaned on superhero films. Ritchie’s heart is in the right place, and he certainly captures the essence of the TV series that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but that doesn’t mean he succeeds in giving us a Man From U.N.C.L.E. that’s worthy of his efforts. Ritchie offers a stylishly mounted Cold War-era Man From Uncle that benefits from John Mathieson’s sumptuous cinematography, James Herbert’s sharp editing, and Daniel Pemberton’s urgent score. But Ritchie the director is let down by Ritchie the screenwriter. The plot, which Ritchie wrote with Lionel Wigram, is an instantly forgettable globe-trotting affair that requires Henry Cavill’s CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer’s KGB agent Illya Kuryakin to set aside their differences and work together to thwart the plans of a criminal organization hell bent on creating a nuclear bomb. Ritchie and Wigram forsake action for espionage. Unfortunately, they rarely drop Solo and Kuryakin into situations that are both tense and intriguing, and they don’t let them face an identifiable villain of note. The few moments of action to be found in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.—most notably the opening that pits Solo against Kuryakin in East Berlin—are executed with panache by Ritchie. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. also suffers from the casting of its leads. Cavill tries too hard to be Bond suave but at least he gets into the spirit of things. Hammer is as stiff as his Russian accent is generic, and his banter with Cavill falls flat. The two lack the necessary rapport to anchor an aspiring franchise that is built around a professional relationship that is forged under unlikely circumstances. Sparks also fail to fly between Hammer and Ex Machina’s Alica Viklander, who otherwise displays enough wit and resourcefulness as the endangered daughter of a nuclear scientist that Kuryakin’s assigned to protect. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. also could benefit from more of the deliciously snarky Hugh Grant, who shows up briefly in a role that could prove pivotal if there’s a sequel. Not that the Solo and Kuryakin of Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. deserve to be assigned another mission.
Aired: Aug. 13, 2015
Web site: http://www.manfromuncle.com/