There’s a formula for event cinema and believe it or not, it’s actually pretty easy to screw up. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. plays a little better as an event mini-series or a long pilot to a TV series then an actual $75 million dollar feature effort that we’re supposed to watch on large format screens like IMAX.
Adapted from the show of the same name, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. takes us to the peak of the cold war in the 1960’s where CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their differences in order to stop a mysterious criminal super power from destabilizing the fragile peace that exists in the world.
Ultimately more style than substance, on the big screen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. felt a little hollow trying to cram too much glitz and glam into the frame to distract us from the fact that they were glossing over plot points. Overall, it could have been shaped into a better film.
Guy Ritchie directs action well enough with immaculate production design and an electrically fun musical score, but the narrative is just trying too hard to deliver a complex spy era plot. It gets the fun bits right but when it takes itself too seriously things just go off the rails. Henry Cavill is fun as the roguish Napoleon Solo buying into the 60’s playboy vibe with aplomb while Armie Hammer as Kuryakin and the vivacious Alicia Vikander as Gaby add some good flavour to the screen, but in movies like this you need a darn good villain to keep you hooked and the likes of Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Calvani just weren’t enough to make this stylish affair fun enough.
Technical Specs and Special Features
Picture and sound quality are first rate as expected and the special features include 6 behind the scenes featurettes into the making of the film along with an Ultraviolet digital copy.
Spy Vision: Recreating the 60’s Cool: An 8.5 minute look at the importance of the costumes and the general style and the music of the time. The movie is unquestionably skilled at the world-building that it has to do to get into this era, however sadly I think I could have watched a feature length documentary about how they made this style, rather than the actual feature itself.
A Higher Class of Hero: A 7 minute look at the action sequences in the film and how Guy Ritchie and his team tried to give audiences a fresh look at a-typical action set pieces that have been done before.
Metisse Motorcycles: Proper-And Very British: A five minute look at Metisse Motorcycles that were used in the movie and were very popular at the time.
The Guys From U.N.C.L.E.: Five minutes about the casting of the two leads and how key they were in the making of the film. A very generic piece where the directors and actors basically gush about each other… ~groan~
A Man Of Extraordinary Talents: A three minute profile of writer/director Guy Richie while on set. Generic and dull, who cares if they play chess on set?
On-Set Spy: Various behind the scenes bloopers and stories from the set.
Does it deserve a spot on your Dork Shelf?
Ultimately no, there are worse ways to spend two hours but The Man From U.N.C.L.E. never quite works as it’s flashy nature isn’t enough to distract us from a fairly thin story.