"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Review: Beautifully Filmed, Great Music, Distracting Accents
I went into “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” expecting to be thrilled, entertained, and charmed by beautiful people chasing each other around the globe in a game of cat-and-mouse like the recent “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation” -- except with bland male leads (Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer). At least, that’s what I got from the trailer.
The majority of the trailer is what you get from the beginning of the film, which is a great start because the trailer is pretty damn good. The problem is the film slows down afterwards, and what follows isn’t as consistently thrilling, entertaining, or charming.
Guy Ritchie’s spy thriller is more talky than exciting. Although a writer’s film, the dialogue is only sporadically clever. And because of that, when the leads aren’t moving about to save the world but just talking, there’s a lull in the pacing.
Most of the lulls occur during hotel scenes that are, overall, not very funny. It’s different variations of the tired rough-sex-in-a-hotel-room variety. Hammer and Alicia Vikander, one of the couples, are just barely passable in the chemistry department, so I don’t quite buy their blossoming romance. Cavill and Elizabeth Debicki are better though.
As reluctant partners paired together to save the world from nuclear destruction, the chemistry between Cavill and Hammer is just ok. I think the problem is Hammer. His accent is the most distracting of the four leads.
Also distracting at times is Ritchie’s mimicking of Ang Lee’s multi-frame editing style from the “Hulk.” It didn’t work in Lee’s film, and it’s not much better in “U.N.C.L.E.” It’s just too difficult to focus your attention on so many frames simultaneously. The only time this technique works, from what I’ve seen so far, is in the “24” TV series; in that, the action from each frame gets the focus and the full screen, and all of those frames only come together at the end of the action from each frame.
In the charisma department, neither Hammer nor Cavill oozes much of it. Hammer is supposed to be this Russian force of nature because of his height, but he’s more Andrei Kirilenko than Ivan Drago because of his lanky frame. Cavill is built like a tank, but has the face of Dave Franco.
On the positive side, the film has great music, generally good editing (except for the aforementioned multi-frame shots), sexy costumes, beautiful locations, and good-looking actors. It’s a well-packaged vehicle with an unreliable engine.
Demographically, the main competition for “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” this weekend at the box office is “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.” While the action sequences in “Rogue Nation” are consistently thrilling and creative, the bantor in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is only sporadically funny and witty.
I’m with the 32% of critics who threw rotten tomatoes at the film; 68% of them enjoyed it, which is solid.