The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ★★★

It is ‘fine’.

That’s probably the best word to describe The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is a shame really. It feels as if it’s crying out to be a better film than it actually is: a largely unimpactful piece of popcorn cinema that neither thrills nor offends.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. official trailer

Guy Richie (you know him, he did Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the thoroughly entertaining Sherlock films — yes, I enjoyed them) directs Henry Cavill (Superman) and Armie Hammer (the twins from The Social Network, forget that The Lone Ranger happened) in a spy caper adapted from a 1960s television show. They play US and Soviet spies respectively, forced to work together to take down a post-Nazi terrorist threat.

The story is fine.

I mean, it’s simple. Very simple. Solo (Henry Cavill) rescues Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikanda from the fantastic Ex Machina) from East Germany who then, joined by Russian Armie Hammer do a lot of social and literal espionage to find Gabby’s scientist father and stop him from helping bad people make a nuke. Or something. Things happen. It’s fine.

The action is fine too. I say fine because although it’s interesting, and the set pieces are cool (the sequence involving boats was particularly enjoyable), there just isn’t much tension to it. Obviously the hero(es) in any Hollywood film are unlikely to die, certainly at any point before the conclusion at least, but the action didn’t feel ‘edge of the seat’. It just happened in an explosive and pretty fashion. A far cry from bad, but not the adrenaline rush you might expect from a James Bond film or the spectacle one might expect from an Avengers title. Enjoyable, which is ‘fine’.

Visually it was quite nice, actually. The action sequences had a number of swooping shots, from darting from one vehicle to the other down a street to darting from one vehicle to the other across a whole forest. These were nice (and just about on the right side of cheesy thanks to the ‘60s aesthetic) despite the clear lack of realism. So that was nice. I liked how it looked, but then again you could just put me in a swanky 1960s racing event and I’d be happy so perhaps that’s not all that impressive.

Acting was fine. Neither stand-out or wooden. Some lines fell a little flat but others were quite amusing. Again, the boat sequence sticks in the memory.

Honestly, I’m running out of things to say. I think that’s the problem: it didn’t evoke any emotional response from me. It’s just fine. It was enjoyable enough, and I didn’t feel like my time in the cinema was wasted. It had moments that were genuinely amusing, and the action was definitely enjoyable. But somewhere along the way a spark was forgotten, and it falls short of anything that’ll stand up in years to come. It’s definitely on the side of good, just nothing quite manages to be great.

Oh, and David Beckham appears as a projectionist.

And that’s fine.

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