Man from U.N.C.L.E. review: The spies who bored me

  • Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 29, 2015 09:08 IST
Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer play a pair of spies in Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
Rating: 2.5/5

It has been a bumper year for spy thrillers. Starting from the witty and stylish Kingsman to Melissa McCarthy’s Spy which proved super agents also come in supersize to Tom Cruise’s return as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – we have had spies of all kinds and provenance. And before this year is over, Daniel Craig’s brooding Bond will take on his arch nemesis, Spectre.

In such a scenario, where does an obscure 1960s TV series, based on two KGB and CIA agents coming together to save the world, fit in? The point of reference here, it seems, is Mission: Impossible which also had similar origins. Alas then, that Man from U.N.C.L.E. starring Henry Cavill and directed by Guy Ritchie fails way short of the thrill Tom Cruise can rustle up for us.

The film stars our earnest Superman Cavill as Napolean Solo, a ladies’ man and thief par excellence who now works for CIA in lieu of jail time. His KGB counterpart – in work and spirit – is Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). However, where Solo is a smooth talker, Kuryakin is the part-brooding, part-psychopath thanks to his dysfunctional childhood and dad in a Russian Gulag.

The film is set in the decadent Europe of ’60s and the duo’s first face-off is in East Germany. Solo has to extract Gaby (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a missing rocket scientist, from the country and Kuryakin’s job is to stop him. The face-off is a delight as we are treated to a delicious Guy Ritchie chase scene.

From then on, it is a dreary going with a few interesting moments in-between. Both their handlers order them to work together, use Gaby as bait and find her missing father who is now being forced by a glam Italian couple (Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Calvani) to make a nuclear warhead. The love-hate relationship between Solo and Kuryakin far eclipses any chemistry that Kuryakin shares with Gaby with whom he promptly falls in love. And even that fails to hold your attention! The two men look great, have been given lots to do and yet they fail to create any impression. For a film with a tired plot (nuclear warhead on the loose, charismatic leads find it and save the world), it was down to the suavity and style in this one and neither Cavill nor Hammer rise up to the challenge.

Watch the trailer here

When they meet in a fashionable boutique to discuss whether Dior goes with Pucci, they do show some spark but it is momentary. A last-minute rescue of Kuryakin by Solo even as he sips wine and jazz plays in the background is another stylish scene that stays with you. These are but the few moments when the film has your complete attention but they are squandered away. One actually misses the sizzle that Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law share in the same director’s Sherlock Holmes.

The department in which film does succeed is in style. The film gets ’60s Europe spot on as it does the sartorial statements of its leads. Rome with its racing cars, East Germany with its squalid buildings, a rambling Italian estate… we see Europe in all its visual grandeur. Cavill’s suit are so sharp, they can actually wound you. The women get to wear gorgeous dresses and vintage jewellery.

There’s vintage Ritchie as well: Split screens, crazy camera angles and shots which are obsessive in terms of their details, he gives you all. But with no charm, an oft-repeated plot and leads that fail to enchant, this is not a film for the ages or even something you will be referencing next year. And dear Warner Bros, if coming up with a new franchise is what you are looking for, you should probably look elsewhere.

Read: It's spy vs. spy in Guy Ritchie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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