By Jack Rico
The 1-4-0: Guy Ritchie adapts the classic 1960s series into a flashy, but mediocre summer action film.
The Gist: Based on the classic TV series of the same name, former con-man turned CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) must team up with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) and a East German mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander) to stop a secret organization from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
What Works: This film is aplomb with Guy Ritchie’s signature visual style. From the credits, to the fun opening chase scene, to the very last shot, Ritchie’s fingerprint is evident. His flashy editing, clever use of subtitles, out-of-sequence storytelling, and excellent framing are all present. Ritchie clearly had a blast with the film’s 60s setting and aesthetic, including several sequences inspired by films such as the original The Thomas Crown Affair. There are several chuckles throughout, with witty dialogue that reminds the audience of classic James Bond films. More than anything it is clear the people behind the camera are in love with this property and this world.
What Doesn’t Work: The same cannot be said about those in front of the camera. Henry Cavill’s laidback performance as the not-so-reformed Solo is inspired by Connery or Moore’s Bond, but Cavill sadly lacks the charisma to sell it. Likewise Hammer’s Kuryakin comes off as clunky, his Russian accent a little too thick. The interplay between Solo and Kuryakin is fun, but, like Kuryakin’s interrupted romance with Vikander’s Gaby, these scenes don’t feature the necessary crackling chemistry. And while Debicki’s villainious Victoria is a sexy, formidable opponent, her motivation to obtain the bomb never really rises above the simplistic character description of “is a Nazi.”
The film suffers from uneven pacing, and is never able to find its rhythm, a problem solidified in what amounts to two unsatisfying climaxes. Ritchie also makes the mistake now all too prevalent in films intended to restart franchises, waiting until the very last minute to give the team/hero a name. The audience came to see the Man From U.N.C.L.E., they shouldn’t have to wait until the end credits to learn what that acronym means.
Pay or Nay: Nay. This is by no means a bad film, in fact in many ways it was quite fun. The theater was often filled with chuckles and many scenes left the audience smiling. However, the lack of chemistry between the leads, the uneven pacing and the shrug worthy double ending make for a decent rental, but not a night out, that honor remains to Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation.