Let’s start out this review by saying I am not a Guy Ritchie fan. Why? Well, simply put I don’t like the way he directs action in a movie. I hated the way he turned Sherlock Holmes into a bullet dodging, explosion jumping action hero in his Sherlock Holmes movies and I really didn’t like the action in his latest film The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He uses lots of shaky cam, whip pans, split screens (sometimes 5 or 6 splits) and jerky cuts with extreme closeups like on someone’s eye or cheek in the middle of an action scene! All of that I hate.
That said, I liked The Man from UNCLE. It’s not going to be a favorite of mine but it almost worked in spite of Guy Ritchie not because of him. Ignoring the action, I had a fun time with the movie.
The Man from UNCLE is based on a British TV show from the 60s that evidently was an homage to 007 and James Bond style films. Henry Cavill rescues this movie with tons of charisma and charm as secret agent Napoleon Solo. He reminded me of Cary Grant or Clark Gable. That old movie star kind of persona you need for this kind of part.
He has good chemistry with Armie Hammer who cheesy Russian accent and all he makes it work as agent Illya Kuryakin.
The two must work together with Alicia Vikander (who overnight is in every movie and is always great) to get her father’s computer disk for a nuclear weapon from an Italian crime donnette played by Elizabeth Debicki (who makes an icy vileness.) It is kind of funny in this movie you have a Brit playing an American. An American playing a Russian. A Swede playing a German and an Australian playing an Italian! Oh well!
Hugh Grant also shows up in about 3 scenes and I wish we had gotten more of him. If they do a sequel I hope they make him a bigger character.
The plot is pretty silly and a lot of realizations and twists don’t make sense but I didn’t mind that for this type of spy movie. It’s incredibly stylish with great clothes and pithy dialogue and one liners. That all worked. The tone can be a little uneven at times and again I blame Guy Ritchie for that. He stays in scenes too long to a point where it becomes uncomfortable. For example, several scenes Armie Hammer’s character gets very angry and the scenes go on very long and it causes him to lose his bubbly charisma he has in other scenes.
It could have been easily 20 minutes shorter and been much better but I loved seeing the foreign settings especially Rome and the actors were generally very likable and entertaining that it worked for me.
This is the kind of movie if you see it is on cable give it a watch. In fact, it might be better that way because the shaky cam and jerky editing of the action scenes works better on a small screen. It at least is an action movie which doesn’t try to explain everything and just kind of moves from one set piece to another. You get the feeling it is in on the joke and the camp factor of the film.
If you hated Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes like I did you will definitely see some of the same techniques and it is nauseating and annoying here too but at least suits the project a little bit better. Plus, the plot doesn’t verge into the supernatural or other eye rolling escapes like in Holmes movies (and no slow motion dodging bullets that they must have done 30 times in the last SH movie).
Perhaps fans of the original show will be annoyed (I’m a massive Sherlock Holmes fan) by his style on their franchise, but as I had never heard of the show it didn’t bother me. Over all, I had a good time watching this movie despite the terrible action and directing choices.
Overall Grade- C
As far as content it keeps the language to a minimum and the action is so choppy I don’t think it is very upsetting. There is implied sex but nothing is shown and characters are shot and tortured for a fairly long sequence.
Content Grade- B