Genre: Action, Adventure
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starrin: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
The most convincing moment of conflict in Guy Richie’s enjoyable espionage pastiche The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – which, for those wondering, is more a reimagining than a remake of the classic Robert Vaughn/David McCallum TV series – does not come from a confrontation between the forces of good and evil, as you would likely assume. It doesn’t even come from the strained political differences of Henry Cavill’s smooth CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer’s stoic KGB operative Illya Kuryakin. No, the most convincing moment of conflict comes from a disagreement over what belt Alicia Vikander’s seductive Gaby should wear when going undercover as a Russian housewife. Solo insists on a little black number, before Kuryakin shuts him down by stating that “Dior should never be mixed with Paco Rabbane”.
As you will undoubtedly have gleaned from U.N.C.L.E’s glistening advertising campaign, style plays a major part in this Man’s mission. Much of the suave flair comes from Solo himself, played throughout with great gusto by the charismatic Cavill. Solo is a man constantly clad in an impeccably tailored suit, and who sports a million-dollar smile that matches his self-assured swagger.
Look beneath the immaculate couture though, and you soon see that The Man From U.N.C.L.E is never as sharp as the suits it wears, lacking both the charm and confidence effortlessly exuded by its leading man. The convoluted plot, which sees the aforementioned agents pull back the Iron Curtain separating their respective countries in order to thwart the plans of a mysterious criminal organisation, led by Elizabeth Debicki’s volatile and vastly underused femme fatale Victoria, who are working to proliferate nuclear weapons, is the sort of far-fetched narrative that would be found in one of the lesser-loved films from Roger Moore’s 007 era.Much like Matthew Vaughn’s fun but forgettable flight of fancy Kingsman: The Secret Service, Richie’s film feels outdated. With grittier, grizzlier Bond and Bourne films proving that it’s possible for blockbusting espionage thrillers to be both invigorating and intelligent, investing as much interest in such sparkly spy capers as this is a mission: impossible. The script, collaborated on by Richie and Lionel Wigram, is littered with dreary dialogue and stale sexual innuendo. Hammer is little more than a Soviet stereotype whose presence wars thin sooner than you’d expect, while the virtuoso Vikander is lumbered with the role of a two-dimensional temptress.
Cavill’s magnetic allure is ultimately what saves the day, but assisting him every step of the way is Richie’s poppy and playful direction. Daniel Pemberton’s nostalgically toned score and John Mathieson’s tremendous Technicolored photography – Rome has rarely looked so good – bathes the whole film in a jubilant and infectious glow that, like Solo’s sublime outfits, is a bit showy, but fits perfectly.