The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander
In UK Cinemas August 14, 2015

by Haresh Patel

I used to really like Guy Ritchie. For its day, Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels was an action-packed light comedy of jocular fun – all racist stereotypes and student-level (t)wittery. And it had Dexter Fletcher in it. If Julia Sawalha were in it, I would have forgiven it even more of its crimes against screenwriting.

Anyway, Guy Ritchie went on and made more films. And they were mainly awful, apart for Brad Pitt’s brilliant boxer in Snatch. He became shorthand for backhand. But then, he found a new gust of wind, and made muscular, broadly appealing action-packed light comedies. And then he made more.

By the time Ritchie gets to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he’s used his now established tricks and very particular action-packed light comedy set of cards for what is, well, enjoyable action-packed light entertainment.

Ritchie has surrounded himself with sharp creative heads, and the film looks lovely, all milky colour schemes, overly lit night-times, and fabulous, fabulous clothes. And the good looking cast of Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki, are really really good looking. Personally the award for most watchable lips in an action-packed light comedy must surely go to Debicki. Cavill channels Robert Vaughn’s voice mannerisms beautifully, helmed by voice coach Andrew Jack.

The iconic louche, jazzy big band soundtrack of the original series is referenced by Daniel Pemberton’s driving score, interspersed by source music.

And yet…

The not-action-packed bits are well composed, and the actors all do their bit to convey the fun that embodied the original TV series. But when the action hots up, the all familiar modern tropes of super fast cutting, super loud soundtrack and super pushy music converge to be like.. well any modern action film. You can count the pastiches of Bourne, Bond, Mission Impossible and so on. But the best action sequences are when it’s led by the pictures, cut to music only.

Henry Cavill’s Solo is fabulous, handsome, and super-manly, but misses Vaugn’s sheer bloody (now sexist) charm. The plot is suitably twisty and turny, with plenty of quadruple-dealing to stop you thinking about anything for too long. And I suppose that’s the central charm. Brain off, eyes open, soak in the eye candy of the cast, clothes, cars and, er, action-packed light comedy..

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