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The Man from U.N.C.L.E

The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Guy Ritchie Returns with Typically Flashy, but Shallow, Spy Thriller

  • Alicia VikanderArmie Hammer...
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  • Guy Ritchie
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The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Guy Ritchie Returns with Typically Flashy, but Shallow, Spy Thriller

British director, Guy Ritchie, is somewhat of a divisive character in the world of cinema; the former Mr Madonna stirred British film with his first two features, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but his filmography from then on reads like a lexicon of poorly realised visions (he had Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Mark Strong to play with in Sherlock Holmes, yet still made a mess of it), the latest of which comes in the form of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Based on the 60s TV show of the same name, some of Hollywood’s top male leads were rumoured to be in the running for the role of the brilliantly named Napolean Solo – think Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Jon Hamm – before this generation’s Superman, Henry Cavill, was cast – and it’s not a bad choice.

While many have used words like ‘wooden’ and ‘uncharismatic’ to adjudge the 32 year-old Brit’s portrayal of Superman, the man who many are predicting will take the 007 mantle from Daniel Craig fits the Guy Ritchie aesthetic and you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he teams up with a KGB officer played by Arnie Hammer to stop a Nazi nuclear threat that looms over both the US and Russia in the early 60s.

As with so many of Ritchie’s films, the style shadows the substance, but the director’s distinctive aesthetic shines and carries the film through some enjoyable action set-pieces. There’s a pleasing marriage of humour, kitsch and basic action that Ritchie has come to perfect and while The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pales in comparison to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch whose success was owed partly to its satirical take on the British underworld, you won’t get bored, even if it is in fact the sets, the costumes and the more than photogenic cast that keep you engaged.

At the end of the day, however, you can’t get away from the fact that the film doesn’t exactly avoid spy-film clichés; the basic story – two opposing spies team-up to fight a mysterious enemy with unclear motives – proves as such and the film as whole doesn’t stand-up to second viewing – fool me once, et al.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is Ritchie’s first film in almost four years and if he is ever to be considered an auteur, which his initial rise promised, he needs to do something spectacular and soon.

Like This? Try

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), RocknRolla (2008)

360 Tip

Ritchie's next film is set to be an adaptation of the classic tale of King Arthur, with Jude Law, Eric Bana and Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) set to star. Oh and David Beckham is making a cameo appearance.

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