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Review: Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Despite a weak plot, Guy Ritchie's cinematic reboot of the '60s TV classic is an enjoyable espionage caper, says Laura Hancock

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Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander
Running Time: 116 minutes

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

In a time where there seems to be a constant flux of film revivals, remakes and reboots it has become clear, especially in the case of franchises, that they can either sink or swim under the pressure; either rising above their cinematic predecessors or falling terribly short of expectation. This can be a harsh territory to approach, but, thankfully, not for Guy Ritchie. Known for his unique filmmaking style that experiments with the speed, angle and composition of shots, Ritchie does not disappoint in his swelteringly stylish The Man from U.N.C.L.E. remake.

Set in the height of the Cold War, the film reintroduces and reunites the title characters from the hit 1960s TV series; Napoleon Solo, a charming and former rogue recruited and refined by the CIA, and Illya Kuryakin an enigmatic KGB agent with a penchant for single-mindedness. They are charged to work together, despite their evident hostilities to eliminate an unknown criminal organisation helmed by the formidable Victoria Vinciguerra, which threatens to upset the fragile power balance between the USA and USSR by propagating nuclear weaponry. In comes Alicia Vikander as the head-strong German mechanic Gaby Teller, who has a connection that just so happens to be the pair's only lead to preventing catastrophe. An entertaining narrative of espionage ensues, packed with all the wit that you would expect from a Guy Ritchie film.

The finished product is as vibrant, slick and stylish as its posters. Guy Ritchie accomplishes the retroism of the 1960s Cold War era exceedingly well, and in true Ritchie fashion no less. This is the result of fantastic costume and production design, with both departments utilising the strong aesthetic and sartorial influences of the '60s well in costume, locations and set design, all presented to the viewer through the distinctive lens that characterises a Richie film. Combine this with a focused script complete with an abundance of one liners and a soundtrack that is equally as emblematic of the '60s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. seems like it can be nothing but a success.

The casting is absolutely spot on and the performances well-crafted, it is hard to imagine the incomparable movie machine that is Tom Cruise in the role of Napoleon Solo, as was the original casting. Henry Cavill does an excellent job in the role, mixing just the right amount of his character's likeable and potentially less admirable qualities in his performance to satisfy the viewers' predilections. The chemistry between Cavill, and the film's alternate male lead, Illya Kuryakin played by Armie Hammer, is clear and really comes into its own in their dialogues, which produce the cusp of the film's humour (the fact that you are not constantly cringing at a bad attempt at a Russian accent also helps). Alicia Vikander is wonderful in her role as Gaby Teller, it is not hard to see why she is tipped as the actress to watch in the next few years with projects such as Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl and Justin Chadwick's Tulip Fever in production. Victoria Vinciguerra is an adequate adversary and has a reasonable amount of flair in the hands of Elizabeth Debicki, and it is often refreshing to see a woman behind the villainous mask. And yet, there is something missing here.

Ritchie injects his unique style successfully on many occasions in the film, most notably in the action sequences and set pieces which are great in exhibiting his flair. However, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. often lacks the pace and level of suspense that you would expect from a film of this kind, and although its dry humour is a welcome addition to the genre, it fails to hide a less impressive plot that is simply not as standout as the idea behind the film.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is relatively successful in introducing a Guy Ritchie twist on a classic 1960s TV series, and is a fun and satisfying espionage caper that is sure to make your visit to the big screen an enjoyable one. The tagline "saving the world never goes out of style" is certainly an accurate representation of the film, its only downfall is that the plot is secondary to its style.

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