The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is currently in theaters
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – Rated PG-13
“In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.”
I love Robert Vaughn’s turn in The Magnificent Seven. As a kid, I remember enjoying the short-lived Invisible Man series starring David McCallum. Yet strangely I have never seen their signature roles in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. For some reason, it wasn’t in syndication in Miami, perhaps because the spy craze had mostly burnt out by then. So, for once, I find myself unable to compare a reboot to the source material.
Henry Cavill did not make much of an impression on me in Immortals or Man of Steel. Both were pretty yet vapid movies. Man of Steel was the anti-Superman Superman movie. I thought Cavill was pretty vacant as Superman but I’m not sure if that was Cavill or director Snyder.
Likewise, Armie Hammer has never made an impression on me. I saw him as The Lone Ranger in Disney’s Deppified The Tonto Show. He was good as a complete gooberhead John Reid but the role required a lack of depth. Likewise his role as Clyde Tolson in J. Edgar was to subvert any personality and play sidekick to the titular personage.
Alicia Vikander, so terrific in Ex Machina (go see it!) is just fine here but the role doesn’t call for much. Elizabeth Debicki looks incredible in the retro fashions and, as that seems to be her primary role, does a good job. I look forward to seeing her in a role that stretches her abilities.
Now Guy Ritchie I do have an opinion of. Ritchie had a wonderful debut with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and no sophomore slump with Snatch. They both did a wonderful job capturing London thugs. He bombed with Madonna’s Swept Away but so did just about anyone who filmed with her.
Guy Ritchie is an amazing visual stylist. He certainly proved that when he shifted his milieu to Holmesian England with a dash of steampunk. The visuals in Uncle are simply wonderful. The setting, fashions, and vehicles are droolworthy. I believe Ritchie intended the performances to be superficial as they all seem to be a uniform shade of vanilla. As such I don’t really fault Hammer or Cavill here (or Vikander or Demicki).
Uncle would be a great film IF the script matched the visual stylings and IF Ritchie had worked on getting better performances instead of photogenic characters. The script and story were from Richie, Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes), Jeff Kleeman (first feature), and David C. Wilson (Supernova? and nothing for fifteen years?). Too many cooks spoil the broth.
There is a lot of semi-clever banter here but Ritchie has had so much better dialogue. The deadpan deliveries also ruin some of the lines. Everything seems just a little off in the movie like it could have been a classic if…
As it is the movie is a visual treat, a good amount of fun, and has two incredible scenes. The best is a great gag involving torture (yes, I know that’s a sore subject these days – the humor plays all the better for it).
The second best is one a lesser director would never try. One of the signature action sequences takes place almost entirely in the background.
It is not at all that Uncle is a bad film (it isn’t), it is just that it is disappointing that it doesn’t live up to its potential.