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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Review)

"[One] of the most boring and uninteresting action films I've seen in recent memory"

by Steve Pulaski

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is someone's film, but alas, it is not mine. Somebody who feels the espionage genre is an underserved market - and, to their credit, they have great validity with that statement - may enjoy the film being that it's been a while since A Most Wanted Man was in theaters and there's still a few months before James Bond will return to multiplexes, but that target market shouldn't settle for this. This is one of the most boring and uninteresting action films I've seen in recent memory.

To begin with, much like the 1960's Television show this is based on, the plot takes place during the Cold War, focusing on the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.). We follow agents Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), who reluctantly team up to stop an international criminal organization led by the sultry Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), who's focus is on blurring the lines between nuclear weapons and the rapid advancement of technology. The only lead the two agents have is Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a German scientist, and the two, despite having animosity for one another, must work together to achieve some sort of formal lead before a nuclear attack is commissioned.

This all sounds like rich, entertaining material, perhaps suited for a film with the prime focus of bringing comic-book pulpiness to life in an engaging and spirited manner. Yet, despite a cast that has proven themselves capable and Guy Ritchie, a director who has been behind the scenes of some seriously fun and interesting films, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. still winds up being an incorrigible affair.

For one, each actor here seems to have every shred of life and energy sucked out of them upon arrival onto the film's set. Characters, particularly the protagonists, Cavill and Hammer, speak with an unattractive coldness, rendering most of their dialog in a monotone state. This makes it next to impossible to find any involvement with these characters, especially when they can't give the audience a reason to care or get excited for them, given all the peril they face with their jobs. There's so desperately little development and thought given to them that they practically exist as suave, well-dressed robots, complete with Hugo Boss suits, perfectly combed hair, and Johnnie Walker Green Label always nearby, serving as their much-needed beverage.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Cast Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
Release Date 14 August 2015
Steve's Grade: D

Once more, at just four minutes shy of two hours, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. drearily plods from one lavish set-piece to another, only instead of engaging us, simply flashing the 1960's aesthetic at us in a lazy and unconvincing manner. The jazz music, the vehicles, and even the overall feel of the film simply come off as wholly inauthentic and tacky, and does nothing but turn the film into a scenery-chewing display of half-baked costumes and decorations.

Finally, there's just the lack of investment in the story. This is another one of those films with a fairly basic story needlessly complicated by an overlong runtime, too many characters, most of whom are undeveloped, and a frustrating focus on empty dialog and the driest possible humor. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. doesn't always play to the conventions of a comedy, but when it does, it's sure to include corny, and often, unfunny circumstances and zingers in hopes to obtain a laugh amidst the poorly paced story and the almost equally uninteresting car chases.

The film this so desperately seems to want to be, despite the relatively close release window, is Kingsman: The Secret Service. However, where Kingsman was stylish and actually suave (rather than appearing so), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the equivalent of a professional sports teams' equipment managers putting on the actual team's jerseys and saying, "come on, guys, we can do it!" in an encouraging manner, when really, not a clue is to be had amongst anyone in the locker-room.

I conclude my review by coming full circle, reiterating my point that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is indeed someone's film, despite it doing very little for me other than inciting incredible boredom. With a series of talented actors exhibiting uninteresting, monotone performances, contrived aesthetics, and poor pacing and plot structure, even the neglected espionage fans should simply not settle for this mess.

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