The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Kate Young
16th Aug 2015

It’s been four years since Guy Ritchie has made a film. He’s made some brilliant films that will forever be part of cinema history, such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and RocknRolla, so you can imagine my disappointment when we are handed this underwhelming reboot of the 60's television series of the same name as his new offering. Ritchie is known for his outrageous scenarios, violence, course language, stylized scene transitions, goons, thugs and con men and of course the charming leads. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has all of these but it constantly feels like Ritchie is falling short and what could have been a fast-paced action movie is more like a fashion shoot for a men’s magazine.

Thrown into the swinging 60’s we find Napoleon Solo (played by Man Of Steel's Henry Carvil), a former criminal turned US superspy trying to make his way across the German border. His mission is to save their only lead, an auto mechanic named Gaby (Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander), whose father is at the heart of a plot to develop uranium and build nuclear weapons. His mission takes a new course when he realizes that they have been bugged, meaning they must make a hasty escape. Safety comes in the form of getting Gaby across the border, a plan that is almost foiled by Illya Kuryakin (The Lone Ranger's Armie Hammer) a Russian spy with the same mission. Here the two team up and are forced to put aside their differences in order to prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

All the spy clichés are here, but unlike the Austin Powers movies, aren’t used in a witty or satirical way. From a production point of view, this film is beautifully shot. One thing that Richie does do well with his films is he’s always able to evoke the time period in which the film is set. From the costumes to the props, there is a great sense of detail, giving life to a time once forgotten. The soundtrack plays a very big part in recreating the idolized nostalgia of the 60’s. I left thinking more about recommending the soundtrack than the film itself.

The true heroes of the film were the two female leads. Both Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki (who I was surprised to find out is an Australian actress) stole every scene they were in. The other true scene-stealer was Hugh Grant who I have such a soft spot for; he brought humor and upstaged everyone else in his scenes.

Perhaps The Man from U.N.C.L.E is in fact a spy film aimed at women, given the lack of violence, swearing, use of weapons (which we all know is why we love Richie’s films so much - they were over the top and grand). The men are beautiful and they ooze more sex appeal then the women seducing them. It’s just not a manly film. These guys hold nothing to James Bond; even Austin Powers could run circles around these guys (judo chop!).

Guy Richie just tried too hard with this film. After the terrible Swept Away (Madonna what did you do to the man?), Ritchie is forever trying to gain back his street cred. Its just such a shame because this movie could have been great. I think its time we stopped rehashing all these old television shows. There’s this beautiful campiness and corniness that is so ingrained in all these shows - the nostalgia that comes from your childhood of having sat down on a Saturday morning and watched them - that these movie reboots just can't re-create. 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is in cinemas now.