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‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Just a Big Screen Bore

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Director Guy Ritchie’s big screen version of the 1960’s spy show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is a colossal waste of time for all involved. The original show was never all that good to begin with, but this film is never able to clear that admittedly low bar, or even replicate any of the TV show’s small pleasures.

Trouble begins almost immediately with an opening credits sequence, which is strangely at odds with the otherwise arch tone of the proceedings. Current Superman Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) plays the impeccably-dressed American agent Napoleon Solo, while Armie Hammer is Russian KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. They are forced to pair up to track down a former Nazi nuclear scientist now working on a bomb for a mega-corporation in Italy.

Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Of all the cast members, only Cavill strikes the right tone. He’s an immaculately dressed clotheshorse who doesn’t seem to take anything too seriously. Every quip and line reading seems delivered with an arched eyebrow, and he seems to relish the opportunity to be freed from his brooding turn as the Son of Krypton. Armie Hammer runs more trouble as the supposedly humorless KGB agent who still has to deliver faux witticisms about his own Russian humorlessness. Alicia Vikander looks stunning as an East German auto mechanic who must first be smuggled into the west and then help our heroes stop a nuclear war, but she is given little to do.

And apart from the two leads just about everything else is wrong. The script keeps the quips coming, but they’re never more than mildly amusing at best, and needlessly cruel at worst. What are audiences supposed to do when Solo and Kuryakin watch a man burn to death, and then lament how Solo left his jacket inside near the flaming corpse?

Director Guy Ritchie seems to hope that quips and the generic “spy movie” music score will distract audiences from the uninspired proceedings going on screen. Even at its worst, the plots of the original TV show were entertainingly ridiculous flights of fancy, that made even the most outlandish Bond villains seem realistic by comparison. But the big screen version has our agents of smugness battling a fairly conventional Nazi scientist and renegade italian corporation, that wants to build a bomb for the highest bidder. It’s not terribly interesting, and Ritchie doesn’t seem to know how put a fresh take on the material, settling on a conventional and boring story.

Alicia Vikander
Alicia Vikander in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Hugh Grant does wander in for a few perfunctory scenes as U.N.C.L.E. boss Mr. Waverly, but looks as bored here as he did in “Did You Hear About The Morgans?” And apart from an opening scene with Cavill and Vikander escaping over the Berlin Wall, the action sequences are run of the mill and decidedly pedestrian.   

While not everyone enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s version of “Sherlock Holmes,” at least those movies were different from the previous Holmes stories. He seems to be grasping at straws here, hoping style will prevail over substance. The style is impressive, and while the costume designer deserves credit for the pitch perfect outfits, “U.N.C.L.E.” seems designed to be forgotten before its audience has even left the theater. It’s a lot of highly-paid people in fancy clothes just absentmindedly going through the motions.  

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” opens everywhere on August 14th. Featuring Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, and Hugh Grant. Screenplay by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2015 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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