REVIEW: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Guy Ritchie’s odd couple spy thriller based on the 1964 MGM series of the same name is by no means a simple film to break down. Featuring a British actor playing an American and an American playing a Russian, all wrapped up in a 60’s cold war setting, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a far cry from Ritchie’s early work. But is it actually any good?
MFU is every bit as stylized as Ritchie’s older pieces, it simply feels more refined. There’s little if any of the narrator voice over we’ve become familiar with from his early work and the storyline feels streamlined and simplified. This is irritating a number of critics, who want nothing more than to see Ritchie continue to push the boundaries of his auteur. However the fact remains that MFU is an enjoyable film, regardless of what the director has released in the past.
It’s true that the cast could have benefitted from a big personality, which has often been the selling point of Guy Ritchie’s films; in this past he’s worked with Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr and Gerard Butler. This time it’s Henry Cavill taking the lead as the charismatic ex-thief turned CIA agent, Napoleon Solo. Cavill’s American accent is so over the top, yet he manages to own the part and pulls off one of the most likeable performances of his career. Now entering the mainstream movie spotlight since his casting as the DC Universe’s Superman, Cavill offers us a far more fun demonstration of his acting prowess. Donning suits that make sections of the film feel more like an expensive lager or men’s cologne advert, Cavill fits perfectly into his self-obsessed role and delivers the exact style of humour you’d expect in a Ritchie film.
His partner for the film is Illya Kuryakin a top KGB agent who Armie Hammer portrays well, but still feels less believable, and far less likeable than Cavill’s Napoleon. Hammer never completely manages to convince the audience that his character is the real wild card with a temper he’s supposed to be, yet offers some captivating chemistry alongside Cavill.
The action sequences are the one area of the film that offer real room for improvement. It seems as if the studio influence that comes with a large budget has persuaded Ritchie to play it a little safer when it comes to offering any real boundary pushing editing or creatively shot fight scenes. Car chases, however manage to perfectly capture the old school spy vibe that the film constantly references. A chase between the two agents through East Berlin near the start of the film is both fun and tense, and perfectly set up the two characters, allowing their individual personalities to form before they’re thrown into a forced partnership.
The real stars of the film however are the sets and costumes. The whole film feels like a fashion shoot and every non-action orientated scene seems to offer a new 60’s outfit for the audience to drool over. There’s also an interesting degree of feminism subtly woven into the film as both of the male agents argue over the fashion of the time, as well as female characters proving more than capable of staying one step ahead of their male counterparts.
Die hard spy film fans may be a little irritated by how much MFU borrows from past classics, Bond films especially, however the whole film feels more like a love letter to the classics, than a typical rip-off. The invasion of an tropical island by covert military by sea feels as if it’s taken straight from an early Bond movie, but since Bond has progressed so much since these early films, it’s nice to revisit some of these iconic scenarios.
With AMC offering £3.50 tickets before midday every day and buy one get one free with Meerkat Movies, there’s no excuse not to get yourself over there and see what you think of Man From U.N.C.L.E. for yourself.