Updated: August 28, 2015 5:38:18 pm
IAN Fleming contributed to the TV series that bred this film, Quentin Tarantino hangs like a very large shadow over it, and then there is Ritchie himself, who successfully drew a Sherlock Holmes out of Robert Downey Jr — or the other way round. The Man From U.N.C.L.E suffers on all three counts.
It isn’t as ambitious as James Bond, as sharp as a Tarantino, or as brainy as a Holmes.
What Ritchie is going for here is friendly banter between an American agent, Napoleon Solo (Cavill), and the Russian spy he is forced to partner with, Kuryakin (Hammer), during the Kennedy years, amidst the Cold War. They are chaperoning a German, Gaby (Vikander), whose father used to be Hitler’s rocket scientist before he switched sides. Gaby was left behind the Wall, but father Dr Teller has also disappeared now and the Russians and Americans fear he may have fallen into the hands of Nazi remnants with evil intentions.
The problem is that Cavill and Hammer don’t light any sparks, together or apart, good as they look in the sharp suits assigned to the former and the cap and informal jacket given to the latter. They are also saddled with dialogue that requires them to speak really slowly when trying to emphasise a point, be it on race tracks, during boat and car chases, or even a totally silent and largely silly hill-side sequence.
Gaby, played by Vikander, who is riding high on the success of Ex Machina, could have told them how to play this game better. As the woman who apparently requires saving, she knows just how to prick their puffed balloons, and to deliver a blow dead-pan. Watch that scene where she breaks into a dance in pyjamas that make her look younger and glasses that completely dwarf her face.
Another woman steals the show as Solo and Kuryakin bumble their way through a series of misadventures to get to a nuclear warhead. That is the Italian who is the brains behind a firm once associated with Mussolini, which has kidnapped Dr Teller. The imposing Debicki barely bats her heavily lidded eyes or chips her long, long lacquered nails as she orders her kills.
The one nation missing in this comity of countries is the UK, till Hugh Grant comes in as British naval intelligence officer.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E is an origin film, with sequels to follow. If Ritchie is helming it, you know who the United Network of Common Law Enforcement needs. More women, who won’t even need Black.
Star Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
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