Release: 7th December 2015
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
At the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the evildoers in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe.
If you watch this gif long enough, it becomes an appropriate representation of the hilarious tragedy one witnesses when viewing Guy Ritchie’s schlock turkey The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
In a year dominated by Bonds and Hawks and even the odd Kingsman or two, expectations for a good spy movie are higher than ever. U.N.C.L.E comes swaggering into the party dressed to impress with a cocktail in its hand…and a dirty great length of toilet paper stuck to its shoe. This film really is a riches of embarrassment.
From its “aren’t we funky-cool!?” visual tourette’s to its gratingly artificial plucky chemistry, U.N.C.L.E does everything it can to be appear effortlessly slick but fails miserably.
There is no denying that Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill are suited to their roles, and they play well against each other. But the problem lays in the fact that U.N.C.L.E wants to be La Dolce Vita and Lock, Stock at the same time. It wants the airs and graces of a chic 60’s Euro comedy, but won’t sacrifice ego to do it.
After Ritchie has finished chomping at the retro bit for two thirds of the film, he finally settles into a more recognisable filmmaker and delivers something much more enjoyable. The scenes of torture flip from menacing to naturally funny at the flick of a switch (literally), and the rock crawler chase reveals itself to be really rather high-octane.
Beyond these moments, nothing else really registers. Guy Ritchie films always come with a relative amount of arrogance and swagger, but U.N.C.L.E has it in spades. In fact, it’s an egregious portion of the film’s persona. This wouldn’t be a problem if the arrogance was earned, but U.N.C.L.E somehow seems to feel like the worst possible version of itself.
If there is a follow-up to U.N.C.L.E, which I doubt, then we can only hope that Ritchie stops fannying about wanting to be Roger Moore in a Pierre Cardin suit and embraces the true nature of his work; relatability.
Film Grade: D
You wouldn’t have known it, but a helluva lot of effort went into making The Man From U.N.C.L.E a visually practical experience. In A Higher Class of Hero great lengths are taken to expose just how many practical effects were involved in the film. This is crazy to witness, because ultimately a lot of those stunts were all but replaced by digital effects or edited out of existence and left on the cutting room floor. What a waste!
A few fluff pieces come in the guise of The Guys from U.N.C.L.E and A Man of Extraordinary Talents, which take time to blow a little smoke up a few bottoms. But I guess you could argue this is common place in the special features market. While U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy offers some nice little behind-the-scenes footage.
The film relies heavily on its overt odes to 60’s spy films, so it is only natural that Spyvision: Recreating the 60’s Cool devotes so much time to exploring what is arguably the unsung character of the film.
And finally for all you gear-heads there is Metisse Motorcycles; a slight yet fun look at the history of these awesome dirt-bikes. Plus it has the added bonus of Armie Hammer falling on his annoyingly handsome ass…and wonderfully earnest and humanising moment.
Special Features Grade: C
It would be unfair to call The Man From U.N.C.L.E tripe, because deep down under all that smarm and charm is secretly a nerdy little boy who makes solid films and just wants to be seen as cool. However, the film is frustratingly insipid and can only be labelled ‘hot air’.