Not quite the right spies
Hollywood has never been able to resist making a pass at any old TV show.
There is rarely much true love in the room for the end result. Inevitably, the tryst ends in tears. Or yawns.
So here we have The Man From U.N.C.L.E., in which onagain-off-his-rocker-again filmmaker Guy Ritchie reheats a Cold War concept that rated its socks off on the box more than 50 years ago.
An admirably mercurial talent behind the camera, British-born Ritchie is coming off a couple of loopy Sherlock Holmes movies that unpredictably snapped, crackled and popped in all the right places.
Curiously, Ritchie adopts a somewhat statelier, saner approach for this new project, and all that refined restraint does not pay much of a dividend for either the director or his audience.
While The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is definitely the most attractively designed action movie of the year to date, its unabashed good looks aren’t enough to stop you noticing your pulse rate isn’t exactly rising in a hurry.
The setting sits smack-bang in the middle of the 1960s, an era when most spy-game fixtures were Russia Vs The Rest of the World affairs.
Captaining the latter team for this movie is American art-thief-turned-secret-agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill).
He’s a junior-league James Bond crossed with a men’s-mag model.
This suave, smart-arsey clotheshorse could kill you without a second thought. But he’s just as likely to take you shopping.
Representing the Russkis we have KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). He’s an old-school Commie nut-job: a stoic, capitalist- hating dolt who is a bit of a psychopath, an and a bit of a goofy square.
Needless to say, Solo and Kuryakin ca can’t stand each other, and w will therefore be working with each other for much of The Man From U.N. C. L. E.
Bringing them together for much bro bro-mantic bickering is a an ace East German mot motor mechanic named Gaby (Alicia Vikander), w whose long-lost father is a ro rogue rocket scientist.
Some irritable Italian types ar are about to clean up the world-domination stakes with some dirty nukes.
Which means that Solo and Kuryakin must find Gaby’s old man ASAP, or the European weather forecast for the rest of the decade will be mushroom clouds with a chance of acid rain.
Considering Ritchie’s prior form as a director determined to shake things up when the talk stops and the action begins, it comes as a surprise to experience his relaxed, almost clinical efforts here.
A few set-piece sequences (an opening car chase on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, and a speedboat skirmish at the Italian seaside) are very well executed. However, the rest of the so-called “hot stuff” merely basks in a lukewarm, self-satisfied glow under closer examination.
Though Cavill (the current Superman of choice) and Hammer (he was The Lone Ranger, remember?) do have their moments — and Vikander never looks less than stunning in her spectacular, retro wardrobe — the whole thing eventually blows over without any deposit lodged in the memory banks.