IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 116 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 1963, East Berlin, ex-con turned CIA agent Napoleon Solo is tasked with tracking down a woman named Gabby Teller, whose missing father is a Nazi scientist who had worked for the U.S. government. Despite being pursued by top KGB agent Illya Kuryakin, Solo manages to transport Gabby over the Berlin Wall into West Berlin, with Kuryakin left behind. However, the following day, Solo bumps into Kuryakin again and is informed by his handler that the two are now partners. Gabby’s uncle Rudi works for an Italian shipping company owned by Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra, who are planning to use Gabby’s father to create their own private nuclear weapon. The CIA and KGB insist the two agents work together, although each man is under private orders to steal the important computer data for their respective governments….
I’ve never seen any of the TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series that ran from 1964 to 1968, but I do have fond memories of watching the eight feature films which derived from various episodes, either combined together or given extra footage, when I was young, and several times. They used to show them [actually they used to show a lot of good stuff that they don’t show now, but that’s beside the point] a lot on TV, usually at 6 0’clock on a Friday evening. Guy Ritchie’s new film may be called The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but resembles the originals so little that I’d have probably enjoyed it a bit more if it was called something else, though it’s an odd beast of a film, sometimes pretty good, sometimes rather lousy. Ritchie gives it directorial style to burn, but it often seems misplaced or just doesn’t work. Little devices like showing part of something happening and then showing the event in full a bit later are fun, and you have to admire Ritchie’s audacity in having the majority of a major boat chase set piece occur in the background, but he badly botches the big scenes towards the end, showing one sequence with multiple split screen – a good device but one that doesn’t at all work for action scenes as it minimises the excitement – and another with such atrocious shakycam [which Guy sadly resorts to on a number of occasions] and editing that it’s almost unwatchable and it feels like someone like that idiot Olivier Megaton has taken over directing.
Up to the final third though, the film is fairly entertaining. The time period is very well evoked – perhaps even over-evoked – the story is reasonably interesting if nothing new, the script manages the difficult task of being slightly tongue-in-cheek without being ironic or poking fun at itself, and the whole thing moves at a nice steady pace, not especially fast but ideal for the story it tells. Unfortunately Armie Hammer, whose Russian accent is often laughable, and Henry Cavill are both very bland as the two leads, and their characters bear hardly any resemblance to the guys that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played in the 60’s. Hammer’s virtually psychopathic character seems like he belongs in a different film. Meanwhile Daniel Pemberton’s retro score is very enjoyable but so loud and prevalent for a modern film that one wonders if Ritchie asked the composer to try to compensate for the many flaws in his film, which feels heavily re-edited and even re-shot. There is some fun here and there to be had with this, but overall this film is mostly a misfire, though it will probably play better if you haven’t seen the originals [I may be reviewing the original films on this website soon, so we’ll see if I’m remembering them to be better than they actually are or not!]. In any case, it doesn’t bode too well for Ritchie’s King Arthur movie.