With classics like SNATCH and LOCK STOCK under his belt, and bigger titles such as SHERLOCK HOLMES donning his small but impressive catalogue of work, Brit director Guy Ritchie has done a stellar job of creating a solid background of work while stamping his own unique and stylish mark on the cinema scene. He’s delved into the world of London gangsters and famous detectives but his latest flick, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, focus’ on the slick world of 1960’s espionage.
Staring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E tells the story of CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin as they’re forced to team up on a joint missions when a shady criminal organisation works to get their hands on some devastated nuclear weapons. As their personalities and extreme work methods clash, they find themselves in the company of young, fiery mechanic Gaby as she becomes part of their complicated and dangerous mission!
There’s no denying that Ritchie’s trademark stamp of smart and slick style drenches the film’s aesthetic, creating a visual smorgasbord of luxurious mise-en-scene, sharp editing and delicious costume. Ritchie absolutely nails the 60’s era; ensuring his audience completely inhales the glamorous tone with deep, greedy breaths. From the rolling Italian hills, the exquisitely exclusive race track, swinging party mansion to the beautiful Roman steps; THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E is just generally a great looking film.
Both Cavill and Hammer gives wonderfully comedic performances, slipping into their characters with real ease. As the smooth talking American agent, Cavill oozes charm and his slick accent is impressive throughout. A hint of cockiness makes his character irresistibly likeable, with his shady past and light fingered talents all combining to create an effortlessly cool character. Opposite him, Hammer stiffens up to portray Russian Ice King, Illya. There’ a very sweet, hidden emotional underlying to his performance; which stops the character from being too harsh and the comedic aspects to Hammer’s performance are brilliantly timed and delivered.
Together, their chemistry is hilarious, ever so slightly clichéd, but nonetheless effective and entertaining. Their constant rivalry and witty dialogue helps to push along the flow of the narrative and with the brilliant Alicia Vikander’s character Gaby cleverly slotted into the narrative to break up some of the bubbling testosterone; Ritchie creates a solid and amusing threesome ready for adventure. Vikander does a brilliant job of brining in some feisty female bad-assery, alongside the stunning Elizabeth Debicki who plays our pouty mouthed villain.
While Ritchie hits all the right marks for style and casting, there’s less to be celebrated in the way of narrative strength. The story is by no means bad, there’s great adventure and fun to be had in separate parts of the story, but as a whole; the narrative gives little impact in the way of substance and often finds itself trailing off to little conclusion.
The final act is by far the film’s strongest, as the narrative finally gets some clarity but before that, it feels blurred and if not a little messy. It’s difficult to remember why exactly the boys are working together in the first place and if it were not for their great chemistry, it would be a bigger problem than it actually turns out to be.
Thankfully then, it’s difficult to really care about the strongest of narratives when one finds themselves so joyfully distracted by the boy’s comedic antics, Vikander’s brilliant performance and the glorious aesthetics that flaunt the screen from start to finish. It’s a little frivolous and won’t be carving out deep recognition in the vast and varied world of the Spy genre but THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E is harmless, entertaining and ridiculously good looking fun.