The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Review
In 1962 when actor Sean Connery took on the fictional character of Agent 007 James Bond and turned it into an international favorite of film fans, the television network NBC wasted very little time in seeing the opportunity to bringing the same type of spy espionage thriller to American family’s homes and their then black and white TV screens. They called the weekly series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”.
From 1964 – 1967 the TV weekly premise was similar to the James Bond film plots of being both stylish, debonair and thrilling, with the only key exceptions being there were two spies partnered together. One was an American named Napoleon Solo and the other was Russian named Illya Kuryakin. And as with the James Bond missions, Solo and Kuryakin would trek around the world squashing evil and subversive cold war plots against democracy mostly in the form of their arch enemy “THRUSH”.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and Director Guy Ritchie brings the weekly series to the big screen with the same title of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”. with Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") starring Solo and Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as Kuryakin.
In the film adaptation this story centers on two agents putting aside longstanding hostilities to two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.
PROS: Director Guy Ritchie has made one of the sexiest, stylish and elegant films I have seen in a while. He has manage to spare no cost in having all of the male actors look simply dashing and GQ in every frame, as well as with the female cast who with their perfectly manicured looks, hair and dress could easily graced any magazine cover then or today. He also puts the right esthetic look to the backdrop of the film from the 1960’s with the look of the hotels, cars, boats, music, clothing, jewelry and street scenes. This film is impeccable looking from frame to frame throughout the entire film.
CONS: While the film looks great and stylish, its plot is as compelling as watching someone reading aloud an article in a GQ magazine for the 1:45 minutes running time. For it (the plot) has no real sense of urgency and no real spin tingling intrigue. And while the TV series did have a bit of a tongue and cheek humor aspect to it (as does this film), U.N.C.L.E the movie made the critical mistake of not creating an emotional connection with the characters and their job of being deliberately in the line of fire in the deadly craft of international espionage. The film looks pretty but it goes down flat.
CONCLUSION: In spite of its good pacing and several witty - funny scenes, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”. while beautiful to watch feels slightly hollow, lethargic and disconnected and in the end somewhat tedious to watch. And though it was not hard to follow with some minimum interest to the plot overall, the film drags.
Still, because it looked good and held my attention minimally, I would say see it, but only after its free on your basic cable network in about 18 months. You won’t be bored, but you won’t be thrilled either.