Somewhere between the style of “Mission: Impossible” and the wit of James Bond lies “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Based on the ’60s TV show of the same name, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” stars Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KBG agent Illya Kuryakin. Against each of their wills, the two must team up to stop an organization from building a nuclear bomb. Guy Richie directs and co-writes as Alicia Vikander and Hugh Grant also star.
This film was originally supposed to come out this past January, but it was pushed back until August. Neither month usually indicates studios having faith in the films that are released during them, so the fact that “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is not a complete train wreck should be a victory within itself. What’s more, is the film is a fun, light-hearted take on the early spy films, with just enough style to overcome its lack of substance.
One of my biggest gripes about Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel” was his American accent. It never felt authentic, as if the British native read “How Americans Talk for Dummies” and just walked on set. In “U.N.C.L.E.” (boy, that is getting annoying to keep typing), Cavill is able to give an almost satirical spin on the classy, suave American secret agents, and it works to his benefit. If you’ve ever watched “Archer” (which if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do), Cavill’s Solo is pretty much a real-life version of the show’s titular character: a smooth-talking womanizer who almost always has a Scotch in hand.
Paired with Cavill is Armie Hammer, using a somewhat awkward Russian accent. I like Armie in most everything he does (we’re on a first name basis because we’re good friends), but I have to wonder the logic behind the casting here. British actors portraying American characters is nothing new (see: this film), but whenever Americans, or most any nationalities, really, use Russian accents it is almost always mocked. Hammer and Cavill have passable chemistry, but they never mesh the way the film wants them to.
Director Guy Richie has always been known for style-over-substance, and he makes no effort to change his ways here. The film looks great and features quick dialogue with editing to match, but those things come at the expense of a wooden, recycled plot. It’s a tale you’ve seen a hundred times: two feuding people must put aside their differences in order to defeat a common enemy. It’s nothing new and the film never tries to throw any twists in the formula.
Most of the action is shot very well, including a fantastically entertaining (if not a bit misleading) opening car chase sequence. Richie knows where to put a camera, and Cavill and Hammer are able to sell their stunts.
How much fun and enjoyment you get out of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” really depends on your ability to overlook simplicity. Cavill gives a charming and humorous performance and the set pieces of 1963 Rome and Berlin provide eye candy, but some of the other performances are over-the-top and the plot is cliché cardboard. In mid-August you can’t expect much from movies, but if you are just looking for a good, simple time at the cinema, then “U.N.C.L.E.’s” your uncle.