Clas­sic reaches the big screen

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (12A)

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket - ●●● ●●

Be­ing of a not too vintage age, the 1960s Man from U.N.C.L.E tele­vi­sion show passed me by and all I knew about the es­pi­onage es­capades were that they starred Robert Vaughn and David McCal­lum as se­cret agents.

As a re­sult, I had lit­tle to com­pare Guy Ritchie’s big screen adap­ta­tion to other than sim­i­larly-themed spy spec­tac­u­lars like Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble and Bond.

Cold War ten­sions abound as CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cav­ill) and KGB op­er­a­tive Illya Kuryakin (Ar­mie Ham­mer) are forced to team up in a joint mis­sion to pre­vent a mys­te­ri­ous crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion get­ting their hands on nu­clear weapons.

On the face of things, U.N.C.L.E looks like Ritchie fol­low­ing the same tem­plate as his suc­cess­ful Sher­lock Holmes re­boot: pe­riod set­ting, two male leads, com­edy mix­ing with mys­tery.

But don’t go in ex­pect­ing a Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law-style bro­mance be­tween Cav­ill and Ham­mer. In­stead Su­per­man and The Lone Ranger spend most of the near-two-hour run­ning time bick­er­ing and try­ing to one-up each other.

The dy­namic works for the most part due to im­pres­sive turns by the mus­cle-bound pair, but a more breezy tone and in­crease in witty ban­ter wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Ritchie con­trib­utes to a four-man script in his first writ­ing credit since 2008’s Rock­n­Rolla and, much like last year’s Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice, it’s clear the quar­tet are huge fans of Sean Con­nery-era Bond flicks.

The 1960s era is faith­fully recre­ated – not least with the hair­styles, modes of trans­port and use of split screens – and the ac­tion se­quences are as thrilling as they are non­sen­si­cal and over­the-top.

Alas, there is no Blofeld or Goldfin­ger-cal­i­bre an­tag­o­nist to trou­ble Solo and Kuryakin. El­iz­a­beth De­bicki (The Great Gatsby) brings glam­our and an icy de­meanour but very lit­tle else as a vil­lain­ess who’d do well to last be­yond a Bond open­ing ti­tle se­quence.

Swede Alicia Vikan­der (Gaby) de­serves bet­ter than the un­der­de­vel­oped, glo­ri­fied ob­ject of af­fec­tion that she’s sad­dled with; it’s a far cry from her stun­ning work in last year’s Ex Machina.

Far­ing bet­ter as an M-like pres­ence is Hugh Grant (Waverly) in his most high pro­file role for many years. He’s such fun you al­most wish he’d got the chance to play one of the lead agents.

The dou­ble-crosses come thick and fast in a plot that keeps the au­di­ence guess­ing right to the end and, even when the pace slows for a breather, ev­ery­one in­volved ap­pears to be hav­ing such fun that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is never dull.

Hope­fully, like Sher­lock, Ritchie’s su­per spies are granted a re­turn mis­sion as there’s enough prom­ise here to sug­gest, with the setup out of the way, even more vi­brant, vintage ven­tures to come.

On their bike Cav­ill (left) and Ham­mer mo­tor on to a mis­sion

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