The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Cinema Review

'admirably handsome, passingly entertaining and even in possession of a smattering of forward-thinking ideas'

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. follows the now well-established studio methodology of franchise launching.

First, pick an old property, in this case The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV show starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, which ran for much of the mid-to-late Sixties and, as I remember it, all day on Sundays in the 1990s, apart from when Channel 4 took a break for some wrestling or horse racing. Property duly picked, append some stars that have the potential for box office if only they could find a recognisable franchise, then write a script that should really be called Difficult Alliance or Duelling Spies, but that no-one will flap an eyelid at after the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. title has instead been applied. Robert (Vaughn) is your mother's brother. You now have a new franchise that benefits from some audience recognition of an old franchise, and some new b-list stars that could go on to be a-list and launch this sort of thing big without the recognisable franchise name in the future.

The problem with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., at least from a studio point of view, appears to be that no-one remembers or cares about the original enough to turn up for this relaunch. Opening day receipts in the US were so poor that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation managed to beat the former film's Friday take two weeks after the Tom Cruise-fronted film was released.

This is a shame because, whilst no means as bad as something like The Losers (remember the end of that), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. does spend a decent amount of its running time setting you up for forthcoming franchise outings that now seem unlikely to happen. Thankfully, director Guy Ritchie eschews the chance to leave the plot unresolved, but rather dedicates a decent amount of time to pregnant relationships, fated to materialise only in a future film that will likely never happen. New spies Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer certainly seem to respect each other by the end of the film, but the relationship has hardly been consecrated, ditto Illya's (Hammer) flirtation with Gaby (Alicia Vikander), which isn't interrupted quite often enough to call it a running joke.

Had it been then perhaps the film would have had a little more success generating the laughs. If you look back at Ritchie's catalogue, his previous offerings have largely been characterised by a lightness of touch that peppered the action. That's not quite the case here. Too often punchlines are flat or uninspired and the script too reliant on traditional spy speak. There's a point where someone actually explains what the spies are doing by starting off with 'your mission...'. Somewhere in the background, Lalo Schifrin started to warm up.

When it's not being a slightly formulaic retread of some expected genre functions, or warming you up for its non-sequel, Ritchie's film is admirably handsome, passingly entertaining and even in possession of a smattering of forward-thinking ideas. Gaby, whilst not quite a feminist idol, is at least a cut above the norm for first female support in this genre and her character takes several welcome and unexpected turns. Vikander, whose star has risen tremendously over the last few years, continues to impress. Cavill and Hammer are fine, though the former does struggle to keep up and trots out a few stilted line readings that demonstrate why and how he is entirely unsuited to his once-rumoured Bond casting. This would have provided a nice ongoing alternative to 007 in the interim between productions, had it only found a slightly larger audience.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. "Robert (Vaughn) is your mother's brother"

    Or, indeed, Bob's your (Man From) Uncle...

  2. Zing! All of the U.N.C.L.E. puns!