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

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Deblicki, Sylvester Groth, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant

Plot: An American and Russian agent are forced to work together to help track down a missing warhead.

Guy Ritchie is one of those directors that people often under-appreciate. He is remembered for his early London gangster movies, like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Those films are actually creative, fun and well directed, but his snapshot of macho English geezers has been mimicked and inspired several copycat movies, which have drowned out the original novelty of Ritchie’s vision. As a result, he often gets a bad rap for creating that mainly awful sub-genre. However, the truth is, and it is easier to see with his fantastic reinvention of Sherlock Holmes (and at the risk of eternal abuse, they are so much better than the show), that Guy Ritchie is a director of intense talent. His visions are fresh, engaging and his movies are never anything less than entertaining (a few of Madonna’s vanity projects aside, of course). So, of course, The Man from U.N.C.L.E was always going to be great. While it is held back by the fact it is clearly a collage of other spy films (look out for so many hidden Bond references), it shines as a good old-fashioned popcorn flick.

Its cast are superb. Henry Cavill strolls onto set, straight from an aftershave commercial and sporting a laid-back drawl of an American accent that I could listen to all day. After Man from U.N.C.L.E, you will want him to be the next Bond. Sadly, I reckon he is too obvious a choice, especially after this stint as Napoleon Solo, but nevertheless, ‘obvious’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing. He is the very essence of cool, always in an impeccable suit, handling the action with ease and often seconds from a well-timed quip that disarms both the enemy and the women. I was almost worried he would drown out everyone else, but Armie Hammer holds his own. It helps that the characters are so diverse that you never end up favouring one over the other, each having their own draws. Solo is the cool, Bond-esque superspy. Hammer’s KGB agent is closer to the Terminator, but with difficulties controlling his emotions and strength. There is also a softer, sweet side to the character that makes it impossible not to side with him. So, worry one was quickly settled. Worry two was that, while the trailer was an absolute blast and a lot of it was to do with the same sexual innuendos that gave birth to this second worry, was that the women would be under-used. Alicia Vikander is a truly wonderful actress and I have already seen her stuck with a pathetic simpering female love interest in Seventh Son. I did not want to see her stuck as a piece of eye candy in this adrenaline-fused Bond love letter. Thankfully, Vikander once again rises to the challenge, almost casting her male leads in the shadow. She is smart, resourceful and charming. I am falling in love with her more and more every time I see her in something. Deblicki rounds up the cast as the over-the-top mastermind villain, but did we expect anything else given the rest of the movie? She has a blast, tearing into her dialogue with an enjoyable hamminess. Some critics might end up calling her a downside to the whole movie, but in truth it works. Besides, with three amazing heroes, we needed a good larger-than-life bad guy for them to take on.

So we have a great roster of characters, all nailed by their respective actors. Now, we need some good set-pieces to stick them in. And Guy Ritchie comes to life with his set-pieces. The actual plot is a little all over the place, with a warhead going missing, a family connection that forces Vikander’s Gabi to become a person of interest and various agencies coming together. It comes across as a little convenient. However, that is fine, and seeing as I let Mission Impossible off for that in a recent review, I feel pressured into doing the same for Man from U.N.C.L.E. Why? Both of those films understood that plot means very little if you don’t have the action scenes to go with it. And there are so many little moments in Man from U.N.C.L.E that you cannot help but admit that Guy Ritchie perfected. The stand-out scene for me, and probably everyone else, is a boat chase in a locked off dock. It is juxtaposed with a gag that will have you in stitches, just for being so elegantly cool. Other moments are just small character quirks. You cannot help but chuckle as Solo realises he has been drugged, so prepares a small bed for himself to pass out on in his last moments of conciousness. Then there is, of course, the mandatory Guy Ritchie dance scene. It is bizarre yet glorious. No, Man from U.N.C.L.E isn’t the most intelligent movie out there, but with scenes like these, I have a feeling I will be watching this one many more times in the future.

Also, look out for a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from David Beckham. I missed it. Points to those who don’t.

Final Verdict: Man from U.N.C.L.E is everything you expect from Guy Ritchie doing a Bond film: cool, explosive and endless amounts of entertainment.

Four Stars