The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Review - Guy Ritchie's Stylish But Unremarkable Spy Thriller

Everything you would expect from a Guy Ritchie studio movie.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜… The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is, on paper, a good fit for writer/director Guy Ritchie, who made his name with Tarantino-esque London gangster flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, and has gone on to produce Hollywood's rebooted take on Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.: very stylish, hyper-realistic action movies packed to the brim with quips, one-liners, intricately-staged fight sequences, and buddy comedy banter. You get all that in his rebooted Man From U.N.C.L.E movie, too - a motion picture based on the '60s TV series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum - and not a whole lot else. That's not to deride a film that is - for all intents and purposes - highly watchable from its very first exposition-heavy action scene to its final eureka moment, in which its smarmy heroes are told they've been assigned to the team of the title. It's just that Ritchie's film is very, very, very style and zero substance (really: super zero substance here, folks). The plot kicks into gear the moment the film starts: there's no James Bond or Indiana Jones-esque "opening adventure" to be seen here, in which we're treated to the tail end of an unrelated mission in order to get acquainted with our hero. The film begins at the exact moment that the story does, as CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill; both stiff and dry in equal measure) takes a trip over the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War in order to seek out Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), an ultra-hot car mechanic (sigh) whose missing father - a genius scientist - is deemed detrimental to stopping a nuclear bomb threat.

At this point, the film gives introduces our third protagonist: Illya Kuryakin, an almost superhuman Russian KGB agent played by the Lone Range himself, Armie Hammer, who soon enough - and true to the premise of the TV show - is forced to join Napoleon Solo as the US and Russia unite to stop a common threat - that is, the very evil (and therefore very rich, because this is a spy spoof) Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), who is mounting a warhead on a secluded island fortress with intentions of absolute world domination. From here on in, it's formulaic fun in the spy pastiche fashion in a film packed to the hilt with exposition, as our very different heroes spend much (if not all) of the runtime bickering and fighting and then ultimately coming to realise - as you already guessed, right? - that two heads (even two heads from enemy nations who hate each other) are better than one. Click "next" to keep reading the review...


Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.