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In 1964, NBC ran the pilot for a new spy series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Only four years later, the show had a severe drop in ratings, was cancelled mid-season, and its legacy was defined by reruns continuing right into the late 1980s. That was until 2014, when Guy Ritchie penned a script for a feature film remake with long-time collaborator, Lionel Wigram. If you’ve seen Ritchie’s masterpieces Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, or Sherlock Holmes, then you will expect a purée of smooth dialogue and stylish set from this rendition. Ritchie meets expectations for you there, but a bland plot and non-ironic clichés cause this movie to slightly miss its mark.
Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kurkyakin (Armie Hammer) are CIA and KGB agents, respectively. They reluctantly work together with a daughter of a scientist—who, against his will, is working on a nuclear bomb for a powerful Nazi-sympathising couple—and their collaborative efforts save the world. It’s an unsophisticated plot that doesn’t seem to have matured from the 1960s, and it brought all the tired gags with it.
Despite the film’s flawed backbone, the charisma of the cast carries the story and makes it an ultimately satisfying watch. Cavill and Hammer work fantastically together and really make the most of an amusing script and prepossessing costume. The Italian landscape, which features in the story, is another big pro for the film. Where the story is generally steadily paced, Ritchie gives us shots to take in the Neapolitan backdrop. It hasn’t been a great time for cinema in NZ. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. isn’t screening alongside many competitive options, so recommending this film is easy. The only advice I can give is to approach the film with no strings attached. It will entertain you for 116 minutes, but you’ll probably forget it within a week. You can decide whether that’s value for money, or not.