The Man from U.N.C.L.E Review

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GUY Ritchie resurrects the 1960s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E for the big screen in what ends up as a forgettable, bland and somewhat boring spy actioner that fails in its attempt to justify a potential continuation.

Set in 1963 and with the Cold War ravaging, Henry Cavill takes on the role of the suave agent Napoleon Solo while Armie Hammer portrays his Russian counterpart Illya Kuryakin. The two first encounter each other at Checkpoint Charlie during Solo’s successful attempt at helping a Nazi scientist’s daughter Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander) escape from East Berlin, which Kuryakin was assigned to prevent.

Upon meeting again, a brawl between the two in a public toilet is broken up as they are assigned by their superiors to work together in spite of their reluctance and international difficulties. With help from Gabby, they are assigned to pose undercover in a bid to prevent the actions of a rich and dastardly couple (Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Cavani) who are plotting to develop a nuclear weapon with help from Gabby’s father.

If the principle of this film is to entertain the viewer, then it is has failed. With a chase sequence in East Berlin starting things off, one sits there and ultimately just sits and watches without really feeling any sense of excitement from it, even as Kuryakin literally pulls the bonnet of Solo’s car off. By assuming (and hoping) that the action will pick up, one moves on.

It does, if the word can apply, improve throughout but only to a very mild extent and not to the point where one feels as though there is a sense of a Bond-style adrenaline rush.

A speedboat chase sequence only picks up slightly when Solo, having escaped and entered a vehicle, begins to help himself to food and drink whilst waiting for Kuryakin to arrive. As his colleague’s boat explodes, after pondering against it, Solo drives the vehicle into the water and onto the pursuers before retrieving and reviving his colleague. This however takes place at the end of the sequence and before then, the speedboat chase or the previous infiltration of the shipping company neither brings the enjoyment that one would think the filmmakers would have spent millions supposedly seeking to entertain.

Even the climactic chase sequence with its use of motorcycles and jeeps only leaves the viewer just sitting there with a wonder as to when the action is really going to kick in. In this climate where Tom Cruise hangs onto planes in Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation and with the hero of heroes James Bond about to return in Spectre, action of this sort is not enough, something that can be attributed to the lack of interest within its direction.

Cavill and Hammer are a decent pair of heroes, though one feels that the predictable script they have been handed with does not allow a reliable chemistry with themselves, or even with female co-stars. Hammer and Vikander’s on-screen partnership comes across as somewhat flat whilst Cavill is forced at times to rely on his suavity to prevent his performance of Solo becoming uninteresting. In fact, one sees Cavill, as shown in Man of Steel, as convincing at playing heroes, but deserving better screenwriting to build upon his talents.

One of the few positive sections of the film comes from the casting of Hugh Grant in the supporting but pivotal role of MI5 operative Waverly. He doesn’t engage in hand-to-hand combat but as a mentor-figure with a knack for sarcasm, his stance as an English actor known for romance works but dabbling in action, like Colin Firth in Kingsman, comes across as necessarily welcome.

By the end though, The Man from U.N.C.L.E ends up playing as Mission: Impossible’s long-lost cousin which should have stayed away due to its lack of energy, uninspiring direction and a general sense of boredom that films of this nature shouldn’t possess.