Reviewed by: Jack Dawson
Nobody lives on Gourmet Food every day, and there are some days when you just want some comforting solid food that is greasy, salty, and otherwise delicious. But you don’t want the limp and plastic crap that’s on offer at some of the cheaper class of Fast Food Joint, you want the genuinely well made stuff which is put together with genuine affection and effort.
In this analogy, you can insert Last Cab to Darwin, Fantastic Four and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in place of these food metaphors respectively. It’s the 1960s, the entire world teeters on the brink of annihilation based on whether the USA and the USSR can stop engaging in dick measurement.
However the acquisition of a synthesized Nuclear Missile by a criminal organization with ties to the Nazis, inspires agents from all major superpowers to unite, if only in the interest of there being a world to fight over. And so the Smooth Talking Cat-Burglar Napoleon Solo, taciturn KGB operative Illya Kuryakin and East German Mechanic Gaby Teller come together to fight, fall in love, and very occasionally act as spies.
Guy Ritchie has always had an uneven career, when he’s firing on all cylinders there’s almost nothing that compares with the Fast-Paced and Visceral action films that he produces. However when he isn’t firing on all cylinders, the result can be physically painful to suffer through.
Happily I can report that this is one of Guy Ritchie’s solid hits, the action is seamless, the editing makes even exposition fly off the screen, and the music is pitch perfect note for note.
It’s probably not the greatest action film this year, but in fairness Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t really a fair opponent for any action film in existence, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E still displays some solid action chops.
In a lot of ways this film does feel like a major experiment from Guy Ritchie, it doesn’t take place in London, it’s a period piece, and he actually has to portray Americans as something other than ruthlessly incompetent. Napoleon Solo is actually a pretty damn likeable character, there’s something to be said for a character who carefully lays down some pillows to fall unconscious on upon learning that he’s been drugged. After all, if you’re going to lose all muscle control, you don’t want to fall and crack your skull on a marble floor.
I honestly hope that Arnie Hammer finally gets his big break from this film, the poor man just keeps picking up terrible films that ruin his chances of being a leading man. But as Illya, he strikes a delicate balance and definitely sells the role of an unstoppable juggernaut.
Finally, there’s Gaby, who does end up with a pretty awesome ending, even if the audience spends most of the film wondering what her purpose is in the film.
Honestly the main problems with this film are mostly structural ones, some clumsiness in the script and a bit of an underwhelming climax. It’s not a bad climax by any means, it just feels a little empty compared to the bombastic and sensational chases scene that proceeded it. And some of the darker aspects of the story seen to come out of nowhere.
But then again, I really had to work to find weaknesses here, and It’s probably fair to say that the Man From U.N.C.L.E has more strengths than it does weak links.
So with three likeable characters, some beautiful scenery and some of the best action you can see I theatres right now, this has a definite recommendation from me.
I always have a soft spot for risky films or unusual premises, and if something this fun is made so well, then it’s time for me to tuck in a napkin and start wolfing down my unhealthy and artery thickening food.