“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (2015)

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
Directed by Guy Ritchie

MFUit“Cool”, or what we now refer to as “hip”, is no easy feat to establish in a two-hour flick…and certainly even harder to maintain, yet that’s exactly what is demanded from a movie based on one of  the “coolest” TV shows ever made…at least in terms of feel. It’s surprising, then, that the coolest presence in the entirety of “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is from a character with a total of three minutes of screen time. There’s just this massive layer of artifice present throughout – forcing “cool” down our throats is not…cool. This is a shame, because the original series was always ABOUT cool, not the caper itself, so you’d think a good director would get out of his or her own way and let it…y’know…chill. (Oy, sorry). Alas, no. Instead we get this ridiculously contrived plot that never becomes as important to the film as it should…SO…you don’t get the caper and you don’t get the cool irony of the series. That’s two too many “dont’s.” Last winter’s release, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” succeeded MUCH better at all of the above.

Even more surprising is that a Guy Ritchie film could feel SO out of time with the world it’s trying to portray. It feels like an “Ocean’s” movie when it SHOULD feel like a Sean Connery-era Bond film, especially given the wonderful opening title sequence that sets up the burgeoning Cold War stakes at the heart of the era. Which is to say that the film-craft of the movie shares the “Ocean’s” gloss and artifice without ever referring back to those VERY important stakes.

The acting is universally forgettable with a couple exceptions. You’ll find yourself wishing Hugh Grant was young enough to play Napolean, instead of Cavill, because he simply gets it. Vikander is stunning and, strangely affecting, even if character’s importance feels very lightweight. Sylvester Groth, as a former Nazi, also sticks out as an actor who understands what the movie was supposed to be. Not a surprise – he’s been great forever (watch the 1993 Russian film “Stalingrad” to see his break out performance). But Hammer and Cavill simply burn down the scenery whenever they’re on the screen, which is probably Ritchie’s fault more than theirs. And nothing stood out about any other performances.

Which, as a whole, is probably the film’s biggest failing. Here it is, less than 24 hours after I saw it on an IMAX screen, and I can’t really remember a thing about it. Yeah, skip it and rent “Kingsman: The Secret Service” – or watch episodes of the original – better yet, just watch “Dr. No” again.

WAIT! I almost forgot! Daniel Pemberton’s original score is one big old heaping homage to Morricone’s Leone scores, so it has that going for it…and in my world, that’s not nothin’! In fact, that’s pretty fucking cool! Or hip…whatever.

Written 08/23/2015

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