The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
★★ / ★★★★
A CIA agent, Solo (Henry Cavill), and a KGB operative, Illya (Armie Hammer), are forced to work together in order to infiltrate an organization that kidnapped a scientist who has found a way to enrich uranium through an easier process, making it possible for almost anyone to create a nuclear bomb. Accompanying them on their mission is a mechanic named Gaby (Alicia Vikander), a woman that Solo had just extracted from East Berlin—and Illya tried to prevent from escaping. They must learn to put their differences aside somehow and work toward a common goal.
Based on a 1964 television series, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” directed by Guy Ritchie, has an eye for fashion, good-looking people, and lighting the actors just so in order to make their bodies look modelesque, but it is a limited action-comedy because the screenplay lacks the necessary edge to get the audience to invest in its story. It is superficial for the most part, but one cannot deny that it is partially fun and the performers, especially Cavill and Hammer, share chemistry.
The most enjoyable action sequence in the film is presented during the opening minutes. Right away the differences between the American and the Russian spies are highlighted which creates great tension. The former is more suave and debonair while the latter is more brutish, commanding tank-like qualities. Quite amusing is the part where Illya tries to stop a moving car using only his hands and Solo is so amused at the whole spectacle, he chooses not to kill his enemy to prolong his enjoyment. Their differences make the sequences worth watching because of the way these vastly different characters attempt to solve problems that appear in front of them.
Less interesting is when they are forced to forge a partnership. Although amusing lines are still present, especially when they relish each other’s limitations, the threat and thus suspense is no longer there. This is because there is a lack of a defined and memorable villain who is at least equally charming as Hammer and Cavill. The screenplay creates a plethora and varying degrees of distractions, such as a possible romantic connection between Gaby and one of the agents, but none of them are especially complex, worthy of our time to explore or navigate through.
One grows tired of the plot and story eventually. I found myself admiring the sorts of wine the characters drink, the hotel rooms and how they are organized, the quality and color of the suits and dresses worn, how the performers’ hair is styled and how it would look even more magazine-ready when it gets ruffled or wet. It is a beautiful-looking movie, certainly, promoting a luxurious, rather fantastic lifestyles of international spies—which is perfectly all right because it aims to entertain—but there is a deficiency when it comes to the requisite dramatic gravity in order to make the story interesting beyond what is on the surface.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” based on the screenplay by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, is a tolerable and passable comedic action-thriller with enough charm that helps to keep it barely afloat. Yet despite its glaring shortcomings, I smiled about half of the time because I had a feeling the people on screen are having a blast especially during the verbal sparrings between Cavill and Hammer’s characters.