The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
2015, PG-13, 116 min. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Aug. 14, 2015
Arriving in theatres with all the momentum of a stifled fart, Guy Ritchie’s reboot of a 50-year-old TV show that follows the adventures of an American spy and his Russian counterpart is yet another Hail Mary effort on the part of a studio (in this case, Warner Bros.) to throw some money at an existing property in hopes of securing a solid return on investment, and, more pointedly, a potential new franchise. Clinical (and cynical) dissection? Perhaps, but when the film unveiled is an artless checklist of outdated spy tropes coupled with two lead actors who seem incapable of rising above being mere mannequins harnessed to a relentless machine of clockwork-timed set-pieces, it becomes pretty easy to spot the accountants behind this (Iron) curtain (sorry!).
But hey, let’s just get right to it: CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) meets cute with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) in East Berlin 1963, as they both attempt to extract Gaby Teller (Vikander), whose father is a rocket scientist who may be in the employ of the Roman Countess Victoria Vinciguerra (Debicki), who’s hell-bent on proliferating nuclear war for fun and profit. Oh, wait, I forgot the ex-Nazis. There are ex-Nazis. Probably bad news, but anyway, Solo and Kuryakin reluctantly (understatement) join forces with Teller to infiltrate Countess Victoria’s island stronghold after securing a few red herrings in posh, European locales. Are you yawning yet? Did that elaborately choreographed chase scene make you forget the nagging issues of your life, if only for a moment? Or did it bring them to the forefront as you ask yourself, “Why am I watching this movie? What am I doing with my life?”
Existential questions aside, here are the facts as I know them: The chemistry between the leads is nonexistent. Cavill unsuccessfully tries to channel Cary Grant, while Hammer’s Kuryakin has so much inner conflict, it becomes a joke that isn’t funny. Their burgeoning bromance has a few quirky moments, and Vikander’s Teller is given a bit more to do than usual, but that ends up just being a setup for a sequel. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. desperately vies to be Mad Men crossed with Mission: Impossible, but it ends up being a forgettable movie that will be a diverting watch while you’re, say, folding laundry or traveling internationally. Let’s all hope there’s no sequel.