UK Release Date: 14th August 2015
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant
Synopsis: A wise-cracking American spy must team with his Russian opposite number at the height of the Cold War to prevent nuclear armageddon.
After making his name for geezery British crime flicks like Snatch, Guy Ritchie turned into a bona fide Hollywood action helmer with the two Sherlock Holmes films in which Robert Downey Jr portrayed the famous detective. His latest is a bright, colourful return to the world of 1960s spy television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E., pitting Superman himself against the man who was nearly cast as Batman.
CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) extracts Gaby (Alicia Vikander) from East Berlin in the hope of tracking down her former Nazi father, who helped the US at the end of the war. Along the way, he evades Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), who is also trying to get hold of Gaby. When the agents return home, they are told that they must now work together as partners to prevent Nazi sympathiser Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) from assembling her own nuclear arsenal.
The crucial thing about Guy Ritchie as a filmmaker is that he is at his best when he doesn’t take himself seriously. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a prime example of that principle – an often hilarious ride of a spy thriller that combines bone-crunching action with a delightfully silly sense of humour and a bubblegum 1960s aesthetic.
| "Not very good at this whole subtlety thing, are you?"
The casting is impeccable, with Napoleon Solo the perfect vessel for Cavill’s charming, witty, slightly arrogant screen persona. Free of the seriousness imposed on his Superman in Man of Steel, Cavill has a whale of a time and gets many of the film’s best lines. Armie Hammer is given the more straight role, but also gets his fair share of the fun as Kuryakin. Add in omnipresent (in a good way) young performer Alicia Vikander as a well-rounded, spiky female character and you have something of a dream team.
Ritchie keeps The Man From U.N.C.L.E. moving at a rollicking pace, without pausing much for either breath or character development. Like many of Ritchie’s films, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. lacks much in the way of thematic depth or subtext and doesn’t spend much time developing the emotions of its central characters. It’s as empty as a retired footballer’s bank account and has all of the depth of a dinner party at the Kardashians. Yet, it’s impossible not to enjoy it.
Naturally, given that it’s a major studio blockbuster released over the summer months, it’s considerably too long. There are also issues with the tone, which wobbles bizarrely from giggling, trousers-down farce to pitch black jokes about torture and death. Cavill and Hammer have enough charisma to walk the tonal tightrope, but it feels like a lot of hard work that should have been cancelled out at the scripting stage.
| "Your balls are on the end of a very long leash, held by a very short man."
At a time when franchise movies love going dark and gloomy, it’s pleasing to see a film like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which just gets on with providing the audience with an entertaining night out. Whether it’s cracking skulls, cracking wise or crashing cars, the film is an enjoyable ride that looks to bring the spirit of the swinging sixties flying into modern cinemas.
Pop or Poop?
Boasting a peppy visual style and a script packed to the brim with quippy dialogue, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a blistering return from Guy Ritchie.
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer excel as the lead twosome, with Alicia Vikander providing spirited support in a strong role.
It’s not a cerebral cinematic work and it’s not got more than a few brain cells to rub together, but it’s got the pedal so far through the floor that it’s tough to think about much else.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.