"For a special agent you're not having a very special day are you?"
Guy Ritchie movies always leave me slightly conflicted. They’re always a lot of fun (mostly, with the exception of that ‘Swept Away’ remake) and I have a great time watching them, but deep down I know that they’re far from perfect and not nearly as good as that first time viewing experience. ‘Snatch’ was immense fun, but on reflection it was essentially a re-tread of his previous film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. Both are fun, but very similar. And as much as I love to see an eccentric Robert Downey Jr solving mysteries, the plots of his Sherlock Holmes films are ridiculous at best. So does ‘The Man from UNCLE’ break that trend?
A CIA agent (Henry Cavil) must put aside his differences with a KGB operative (Armie Hammer) as they must work together to prevent the initiation of a nuclear war between their two countries.
‘The Man from UNCLE’ would appear to be quite uneven in tone for a majority as on the one hand you have quite a comical approach as spy clichés are pointed out and ridiculed, Henry Cavil seems to be aware that he’s playing the part of a more arrogant and brash James Bond and has the chance to make fun of a few of the questionable accents within the film. In short, the film does find a good representation of classic era spy films in the way that it avoided taking itself too seriously, choosing instead to revel in the whole spy experience and not get caught up on the dreary side of proceedings.
Cavil and Hammer also have excellent on screen chemistry. In some respects you could label this as a buddy spy movie. Basically they take the partnership of a buddy cop movie and use some stylistic spy tones to make it a more unique concept. For the most part it works pretty well as like any great buddy cop movie the interaction of the two leads is electric and humorous throughout.
However, most spy films of 2015 (we’ve had a lot haven’t we) are great because they find a tone and stick with it. ‘Spy’ was comedic, ‘Rogue Nation’ was a thriller, and ‘Kingsman’…. well that was Matthew Vaughn (because that counts as a tone now). ‘The Man from UNCLE’ tries too hard to inject a serious side into the film and that sort of hurts both aspects of the film. Any serious scenes are sort of blunted by the comedy and the humorous scenes start to feel out of place as the comedy becomes less frequent as the film progresses in favour of an attempt at solemnity.
The action also causes a bit of an issue, setting it in this era with the tone he established early on gave me hope that Ritchie would really get creative with the action scenes and their direction. But the end result is something that could be lifted from any other modern action movie. It’s not bad by any stretch, but not very creative either.
Another aspect that’s fairly by the books is the story. It is fairly basic and although for a film like this that could be far from a complaint, many excellent spy films have fairly substandard plots. But as the film is stretched into as many different tones as possible it starts to tear and the holes become visible. Even without that though there simply isn’t enough creativity to distract me from these issues. ‘Spy’ had the ingenious idea to set up Melissa McCarthy as a genuine master agent, ‘Kingsman’ had computer chips that cause people to go berserk and kill each other and it’s all masterminded by a lisping Sam Jackson. ‘Rogue Nation’ has Tom Cruise on the side of a plane.
Once again I’m faced with the usual show from Guy Ritchie. This was definitely a fun and entertaining movie, but it’s a bit too uneven and unoriginal.