The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)

“I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.”“Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.”“I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.”“Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.”

“I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.”

“Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.”

Over the past five decades one name has ruled the spy genre in Hollywood: Bond, James Bond. Based off the novels by Ian Fleming, six different actors have played the iconic role. There have been others in the likes of Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible) & Jason Bourne (Bourne series) but Bond has be the foundation for all spy thrillers to idolize. In walks a director with such a unique style to his movies that not only puzzle the viewer but tell intricate thought out stories. Guy Ritchie reboots the 1960’s show of the same name but with his own flair for storytelling mixed in. Usually reboots get made because the IP needs a fresh coat of paint or the interest of reviving a show that was universally loved is campaigned by petitions and fan outcry.

Some franchises need competition right? The Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t that competition for the Bond saga in the least. Set in the cold war era, a former art thief turned CIA agent and a KGB agent coming together to save the world doesn’t seem plausible enough to feel authentic. Yes, there is the show to build inspiration off of, and it is fictitious, but did we need this film to be made? The appeal of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as the leads feels like a step in the right direction but it all depends on the execution of their characters coexistence.

“America teaming up with Russia. That doesn’t sound very friendly.”

It’s a pretty thin plot – stop the bad guy from detonating a bomb and killing a bunch of people. But how they get there is a bit of a stretch albeit a little fun sometimes. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are reluctant to become allies when attempting to capture Gaby (Alicia Vikander) to get to her father – a former Nazi scientist that defected to the United States. Napoleon, Illya, and Gaby join forces to stop Nazi sympathizers from creating a nuclear bomb because the respective countries want the technology for their own self-interests.

Napoleon, at first glance looks like a carbon copy of James bond. He’s handsome, eloquent and has a nice sized closet full of designer suits, some that look a little too small. He’s not James Bond. Solo is amateurish when appearing to be slick for a former art thief. He’s self-indulged and arrogant – the main qualities that makes secret agents effective. He’s a ladies man just like Bond and has a persuasive way of getting what he wants, when he wants it. Cavill’s accent drops from time to time reverting back to his natural English while appearing overly charismatic. Hammer as Illya is more tense and awkward with a peculiar sounding accent. His attempts to be intimidating isn’t as compelling as Hammer in The Social Network where he plays the Winklevoss twins. He’s dull while never breaking that seriousness up from the few humorous lines of dialogue inserted throughout. The entire film consists of both gentlemen one upping each other because they have too. It comes off a bit slapstick and out of place but it works 50% of the time. If that is what the world was like in the 1960’s than so be it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E has some well put together set pieces and action sequences namely the opening car chase and the boat chase. Where this film falls flat is the villainous Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). The character has zero motivation for wanting the nuclear device. Ritchie, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Lionel Wigram didn’t develop the character whatsoever. Its almost like they ran out of steam when writing her character. There is no purpose to her story other than being a Nazi Sympathizer. The same goes for Gaby Teller, what was the purpose of her being a mechanic other than fixing a race car? The answer is none. She had very little to do and when she was on screen her backstory is convoluted.

“That warhead, although not nuclear, shouldn’t have any trouble obliterating a medium-sized fishing boat. The aforementioned warhead launched… 45 seconds ago. Giving you about 30 seconds until impact. [her crew jumping the ocean] It won’t trigger a nuclear warhead, as that requires fission. So, if you do want to make good on your vow, I suggest you abandon ship immediately.”

Where the Sherlock films succeeded The Man from U.N.C.L.E. did not. Sherlock feels complete and more focused as whole where this film at any moment could unravel. The fake love story felt off as I’m sure a man like Illya shouldn’t be getting nervous touching a woman’s thigh. Armie comes off ridged in that scene. It’s also hard to believe that Gaby who looks like she weighs 90 pounds wet could take down a 200 + pound man while play wrestling.  A spy thriller doesn’t need the signature Ritchie 100 something jump cuts to different characters to explain the plot or make the plot seem impactful.

What did work (for me at least) was the chemistry of Cavill & Hammer. They immediately hit their stride while never slowing down. They are quirky together and downright charming at times. Maybe a little too charming but it doesn’t take away from their performances. This film also suffers from its predictability but in all honesty it doesn’t affect the outcome if we can see what is happening well before it happens. The journey is still enjoyable for the most part. The cameo’s of Jared Harris and Hugh Grant are well timed and necessary to break up the action of the film keeping the pacing at a steady rate while adding some humor.

Overall, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a fun spy thriller with a few missteps. Those missteps don’t hinder the film of its enjoyment, just things that are easily noticeable. The music selection was spot on as the score was beautiful especially when Cavill is taking a break from the action to enjoy a glass of wine. It will be interesting to see if a sequel is made as this film serves its purpose as a prequel of sorts. Barring any new Superman news that a sequel to Man of Steel is being rushed into production (fingers crossed) taking up Cavill’s time or a mustache or The Witcher or anything Armie might be involved in – both leading men should come back to continue their friendly rivalry and their character’s. If I were to rate The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I’d rate it a 2.8 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is written and directed by Guy Ritchie is Rated PG-13 and has a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was released on August 14th, 2015 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 56 minutes. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can be bought by online retailers such as Itunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.

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