Wednesday 12 August 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. review

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (12A/PG-13, 116 mins)
Director: Guy Ritchie
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

There can be little doubt that turning old TV programmes into movies can be a lucrative business, with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation currently lighting up box offices and flying the flag for a two-decade old franchise.

Unfortunately that magic has evaporated with the big screen adaptation of another 60s spy show in the shape of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which deals in Cold War spy shenanigans, albeit coming up woefully short in the actual shenanigans department.

A dull opening sequence introduces us to CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), who is in East Berlin trying to bust out Gaby (Alicia Vikander) over the wall. Trying to stop him is KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), by means of a pedestrian car chase and laboured banter.

It fails to pick up after this, as the pair are told by their superiors that they must work together to prevent a nuclear bomb being built, which has something or other to do with Gaby’s uncle. She poses as Kuryakin’s wife as the - for want of a better word - action moves to Rome and a lot of talking ensues.

It’s all punishingly dull, paced like treacle and the exact opposite of what you might reasonably have expected from a Guy Ritchie spy movie, given what he did with Sherlock Holmes. It’s also the exact opposite of a summer movie, entirely lacking life or energy, and absolutely nothing happens for the first hour or more. It’s supposed to be a sprightly caper and the music seems to think the film is jaunty, but that’s not backed up by what’s on screen.

It’s not even as though while nothing is happening we’re getting to know those involved or being entertained by them. Solo and Kuryakin are dull as individuals and chemistry-deficient when they get together.

Taking place mostly in Italy, it’s remarkably glamour-free, while the need to make it look like the 60s adds a horrible CG sheen to some of the locations. Elsewhere honking innuendo passes for humour and it treats the audience like idiots through painful exposition.

So the humour is lame, the action is non-existent and the espionage is thrill-less. It should be Bond, but it’s barely Johnny English, aiming for laid back but overdoing it to the extent that it becomes an immensely boring failure.