The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In a year that’ll see at least three Bond-style spy movies (does your spy movie involve an extraordinarily handsome man in a suit? It’s a Bond movie), you really need to do something to stand out from the pack. Kingsman: The Secret Service went for comedic excess; Spectre has James Bond; and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is going for – once you look past the ’60s setting, which is where Bond began – a buddy comedy.
Of course, Napoleon Solo (Henry Caville) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) don’t start out as buddies, this being the Cold War and all, but when the only thing that could unite the USA and USSR turns up – Nazis with an atom bomb – they’re ordered to work together.
Solo’s a slick sleaze and Illya is a stoic giant prone to fits of rage; fortunately Gaby (Alicia Vikander) is also on board, being the Nazi bomb scientist’s niece and their only way to infiltrate the eurotrash organisation behind him. It helps a lot to remember this is based on a TV series (it turns out to be an origin story, which would be fine if anyone had ever wondered about the origins of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), as this is never quite as spectacular as it needs to be.
Likewise, the chemistry between Caville and Hammer is strictly TV level, relying largely on scripted banter than any real warmth between them (Caville’s usually smirking stiff performance comes just a little too close to seeming like a smooth sociopath). Having said that it’s still fun; there are a number of comedic set-pieces that are smart deconstructions of action clichés – or just plain funny – and handsome people in sharp outfits is always nice to watch. But this is a film that’s all shiny surfaces, even by blockbuster standards, it’s as memorable as a magazine ad for a too-expensive watch.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris