With a heavy set of Bond, Bourne and other brutal agents of varying action styles, the attempt The Man from U.N.C.L.E. makes to shunt its way into the market is a drab, unconvincing one. It was simply not to be, and audiences around the world have been breathing in that sigh of relief for all of six years. Releasing in the same year as Spectre, Spy, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Bridge of Spies, it is vaguely interesting to see how little The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can offer the genre it wishes to mock and project. An odd pairing of director Guy Ritchie and Henry Cavill makes for a team that is interesting more out of curiosity than real vision for the craft, but even then, it should be no surprise that Ritchie and company bring nothing of exceptional note to the table.
Charisma sap Armie Hammer appears alongside Cavill, unconvincing accents and suave suits to boot. There is little difference between these two leading men, stock products of the Hollywood machine with their lightly quaffed hair and jaws made of concrete. Line delivery that doesn’t inspire much love for the original product, but there is an unrivalled disdain for Ritchie’s work shared between the two of them. They counter the light comedy with stoic acts of confusion, and they present the action and choreography of such scenes as bumbling and sluggish. Their inability to match the attempted speed of the narrative is a detriment to both performer and director.
Not even the supporting performers can get much out of this one. Alicia Vikander begins her spiral into relative mediocrity with this, a slew of features followed that showed none of the promise she held in Ex Machina. Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Debicki also appear, but their presence on the narrative is muted and ineffective. Grant enjoys his career resurgence as dependable, charming support, while Debicki grasps at any role she can to move her far away from the tragic uselessness of The Great Gatsby. Ritchie’s work is the odd starting point for a handful of resurgences to the mainstream, so it does have its purpose in that regard.
But other than sparking the fuse of Grant and Debicki, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is bland and forgettable. Obese and packed with nothing of interest, how a film can rattle on for two hours and not provide any depth to its characters is either an odd, intentional choice, or a sign that the script is as useless as Ritchie’s direction. Either way, whatever message or meaning Ritchie had for making this is lost in the inevitable void of quality that comes when adapting television programmes from decades gone by. Another bland adaptation, crushing the wry charms of the show into the package deal Hollywood producers feel safe releasing, soulless mediocrity prevails once again.