Like Matthew Vaughn before him, Guy Ritchie is reinventing his career by dabbling in various genres, first it was the Sherlock Holmes films, now its U.N.C.L.E., a stylish, suave romp through the 1960’s that ticks off everything from the Mad Men checklist of indulgence, from scotch to fast cars, suits to meaningless sex.
It’s a winning combination of directorial style, slick editing and popping cinematography, creating a vibrant, albeit marshmallow light experience that will dazzle you with style but leave you empty in the story department. In fact, U.N.C.L.E. is maybe a bit too stylish, the music, popping jazzy rhythm, can be overused, the camera work, sometimes too frenetic.
Yet, in the end, it succeeds in simply sustaining the same level of enthusiasm throughout, montages of bright colour and swinging sixties sounds softens the heavy clout of cold war terror, ‘Tinker, Tailor’ it ain’t, but we’re rewarded with a more bubbly, funnier Bond-a-like that breezes by, but is darn fun.
The cast are all fairly game, Clark Kent himself, Henry Cavill is Napoleon Solo, sophisticated and lacking in depth, but a strong lead. Armie Hammer as Illya gets some dramatic anger, acting to do, as the other Russian agent, having to work with Solo. Whilst the two partners are both fairly fine in their roles, it’s Alicia Vikander, continuing a stellar year for her, as Gaby, who gets to smile, dance and take control, being, in many ways, a femme fatal for the spy genre.
It’s their film, a classic three hander, no sparkling tension to speak of but fairly bubbly on the surface. The action, surprisingly low on the ground is exciting, fast paced stuff, the spying is similarly nicely done, yet tends to fizzle out. However, it doesn’t reduce the enjoyment of the rest of the film, with a light touch of humour, a particularly fantastic moment involving an electric chair, which had previously been quite tense, stands out as great Bondish humour.
The Matthew Vaughn influence is clear, U.N.C.L.E. is Kingsman meets X-Men: First Class, but Ritchie understands what works about this particular style, he knows how to play and use it, even if the script won’t make it a classic, it’s definitely memorable. The music, though, is rather nice, from Daniel Pemberton and does a good job of setting the tone and establishing the films era and the sort of pacing we’re in for.
All in all I’d say this was great, not perfect, it has nothing like the wit of Bond, the brashness of ‘Kingsman’ or the tension of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, but it has style, lovingly crafted panache, and will leave you feeling like you’ve eaten a bag of pick and mix, colourful, enjoyed in the moment, but will go right through you.
PS – Love this track from the film
Rating: B 7/10