The Man from UNCLE
It’s the height of the Cold War, and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) has crossed the Berlin Wall to extract an asset. Only, someone is trying to stop him: Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). A spectacular opening chase goes on for around 15 minutes, involving guns, cars, grappling hooks – you name it. It turns out there’s a mysterious criminal organisation in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons and the Americans and the Russians decide to team up sending Illya and Solo – the red peril and the cowboy – to intervene.
Armie Hammer comes into this film still reeling from the disastrous The Lone Ranger. Henry Cavill is yet to prove his acting chops; a quick look through Cavill’s previous roles reveals only heroes and heartthrobs lacking great depth. For example, his recent turn as Superman was impressively boring. Neither actor has much to work with here: these are lightly comedic roles, and nothing more. There are some very dodgy accents floating around, but luckily the film doesn’t take itself seriously enough for them to matter – rather, they add to it.
The jaunty and jocular tone of The Man from UNCLE, based on the 60s TV series, is not a familiar one these days. It bucks the trend of the bleak and paranoid spy worlds of the Bourne films and John Le Carré’s novels, as seen in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the grit of Daniel Craig’s Bond. This comes at a price: since there is never any sense of danger or daring, there is no exhilaration. Given that the characters are merely sketches, the film gambles entirely on its humour.
Unfortunately, The Man from UNCLE is just not funny enough. The innuendo is relentless and feels curiously old-fashioned. When Solo resigns himself to a break-in with Illya, he lays down the law: “It’s quick in and out, no mess, and we forget about it tomorrow.” It’s a fairly apt epitaph for the film itself.
The Man from UNCLE is released nationwide on 14th August 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Man from UNCLE here: