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

As emphasised by the trailer, the biggest strength of the film is in its visual stylings, which are cool and lush and absolutely reminiscent of the '60s timeframe; Ritchie knows how to dress a movie and he knows how to use a camera, and there are great, innovative shots scattered throughout The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that are actually quite clever; enough that you're more likely to think about them when the credits roll than any of the characters... Which brings us to the characters: whilst everybody in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. does a decent enough job in keeping the savvy tone up, they are all paper-thin to a fault. With this sort of freewheeling, fun-time flick, you certainly don't expect the characters to embody the depth of Sophie Zawistowski, but it almost seems as if a conscious decision was made to ensure that everyone remain as one-dimensional as possible. Cavill and Hammer barely pull off their roles, whilst Alicia Vikander feels wasted in a part that feels a bit dated. Despite some casting issues, Man From U.N.C.L.E isn't without its inspired moments; there are a good number of jokes and comic sequences that really work. One such sequence has a comical Nazi doctor recounting his life story to a captured Napoleon Solo - strapped to an electric chair - whilst having to deal with frequent power failings; another amusing scene sees Solo eating a sandwich and drinking wine whilst his Russian partner evades bad guys in a boat in the background. And the musical score by Daniel Pemberton is frequently brilliant - a sort of bastard child between the works of Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith.

What most people who sit down to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will be shocked to discover is that the film is seriously lacking in the action department; there are just three "big" set-pieces, two of which are played for comedy and the last of which is edited into incomprehension (and so all the tension is drained out). Not that the film has much tension to it anyway; watching it, there is no doubt that everyone you expect to survive the film will survive. That's not a spoiler. It's a given from the very first scene. And besides, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. very desperately wants to be a new major franchise. And yet, against the odd (and in spite of its many flaws), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. somehow manages to keep you interested for all of its 115 minutes (not riveted, mind, but interested). This presumably happens because Ritchie consistently manages to find ways to inject life into his film, be it with a quirky camera movement, or by blasting an obscure song over the soundtrack, forcing you to sit upright in your seat and take note, because music! If you're unfamiliar with the TV series on which this film is based (as most are likely to be), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. won't win any new fans around to Sam Rolfe's creation, nor will anybody be bothered whether a sequel film is put into development or not. This is a light, fun and inconsequential film - one both enhanced and limited by its breezy tone. Still, you could do a whole lot worse than spend two hours in Ritchie's glossy, ultra-stylish world. Like this article? Agree of disagree with our review of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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.