Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is carefully crafted to evoke nostalgia for old James Bond films and sixties spy movies, as well as the TV series on which it is based. It is rather a shame, therefore, to report that the results are so-so at best.
Viewers familiar with the characters so memorably inhabited by David McCallum and Robert Vaughn will perhaps struggle with seeing Arnie Hammer and Henry Cavill in the Ilya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo roles respectively. These CIA/KGB rivals are forced to join forces against a mysterious criminal organisation that wishes to obtain nuclear weapons. Add to this volatile mix East German mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander), whose father worked as a Nazi scientist, ice cool villainous Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), and the stage ought to be set for a really good blast of old school spy fun. But somehow all of this fails to congeal into anything above average.
It certainly looks fabulous, with glamorous use of Rome and Berlin locations. The opulent colour palette also evokes the spy movies of yesteryear, and Ritchie certainly seems to have a passion for the project. Yet the script is rarely thrilling, save for the opening, as Solo and Ilya clash during an attempt to smuggle Gaby out of East Berlin. The cast do reasonably well, but it is only the wonderful Vikander who really shines. That said, Hugh Grant pops up in a few scenes, and steals every one of them.
All things considered, this isn’t so much The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as The Meh from U.N.C.L.E. If you want a bit of spy action this summer, check out the superior Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation instead.