Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

World of Blackout Film Review

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Cert: 12A / 116 mins / Dir. Guy Ritchie / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Oh, Guy. You do know, don't you Guy, that they're still making East-End gangster movies? That 'Krays' one comes out in less than a month. That looks good, Guy. Why weren't you involved in that, Guy? I love your work when you do those movies. What are you doing, Guy? What is this?

And so, the inimitable Mr Ritchie takes directorial (and co-penmanship) duties over the relaunching of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1960s TV spy-show. Normally in this paragraph I'd summarise the film's premise in one or two sentences, but I'm not actually sure what it's about. Yeah, I've just watched it. Something involving inconsistent accents, a nuclear weapon and women wearing ridiculous sunglasses, but then aren't they all? Even Mission: Impossible (playing in the screen next door, aptly) has managed to leave most of that behind, although that's not a period-piece, to be fair.

But first things first, I didn't actively dislike this. I just couldn't like it, either. I feel it's important to lay that out now, because I'm about to do nothing but complain about it *ahem*
What an almighty fucking mess this film is. A very stylish mess, like a Christmas-season aftershave commercial with extended bouts of gunfire, but a mess all the same. A plot which has been copy/pasted from page one of the spy-movie-screenwriter's-handbook, yet is still utterly incoherent, somehow; a distracting soundtrack which is all over the place stylistically and too loud in the mix; choppy editing and excessive split-screening; subtitles for the stretches of German/Russian/Italian dialogue which appear in a massive, yellow, block-serif typeface which is borderline unreadable for the amount of text (and time) displayed; and a leading man whose cartoonishly repetitively oscillating register makes all of his dialogue irrelevant*1.

Credit where it's due, Henry Cavill succeeds in one notable area; he manages to make Armie Hammer not be the worst thing in a film. Much of the script's dry humour falls upon Henners to deliver, and it's a ball which he drops repeatedly*2. The problem is that with Ritchie's much-maligned Sherlock Holmes movies, Robert Downey Jr was able to carry things along in his own style. TMFU has no such crutch. That said, Ritchie scores in one similar way with his latest rejuvenated franchise, in that the film will infuriate fans of the original series whilst baffling everyone else.

And was the inclusion of 'a still-practicing Nazi war-criminal who shows his victims photo-albums of his 'work' prior to torturing them slowly to death' written in to the film before or after the decision to go for a 12A certificate? For obvious reasons things don't get too gruesome, but it's still there and it's completely out of kilter with the rest of the film. Even if I found the electric-chair finale to be one of the best-delivered gags.

But y'know what? The Man From U.N.C.L.E. looks very pretty and if you're not fussy about being spoon-fed a non-plot then you'll probably get something out of it.

And yeah, that's me not-hating a movie...

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Oh, it probably is, but only because it'll be better on a big screen than a small one.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
I have no fucking idea.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I don't think so; your mileage will vary.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.
(already disagreed with Mrs Blackout over this one, even though she conceded many of my reasons for it being a mess)

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard, although anything that isn't Cavill's/Hammer's/Vikander's voice or the seizure-inducing soundtrack is largely white-noise, anyway.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. stars Alicia Vikander, who appeared in Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley from The Phantom Menace, Son Of A Gun wih Ewan McGregor from TPM, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, and Ex Machina with Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac from The Force Awakens. She's connected.

What I'm asking is, why hasn't Alicia Vikander been cast in a Star Wars movie yet?
Everything about her just yells Naberrie/Skywalker/Organa…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Seriously, listen to Cavill in the trailer. His line about "and what came after me was barely human…"; he delivers every single fucking line in 'that' exaggerated voice. It's like he's almost singing his dialogue, except none of the lyrics make any sense and you only realise that when you have no idea what the fuck's meant to be going on because he's been the one chosen to deliver the pre-finale plot summary (no, seriously), and two minutes later you realise that it actually doesn't matter because look, here's a speedboat chase and an explosion.

*2 Either Cavill can't deliver the humour, or Ritchie can't direct him to do it. It could well be both, although I have a friend-of-a-friend who went to school with Cavill on Jersey, and attests to the fact that the man has absolutely no sense of humour. This ties in with what I saw in the movie.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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