THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. -Review by Susan Granger

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Originally a popular NBC-TV show in the mid-1960s, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, this action adventure has been revived by Britain’s hyperkinetic Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch”). Set in 1963 in the midst of the Cold War, it introduces Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), a preposterously preening thief-turned-CIA agent, who is forced to team up with a gruff, no-nonsense KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hamer). Both have been culturally programmed to never trust one another. Read on…

Their mission is to prevent a nuclear bomb from falling into the hands of the wrong people; in this case, the evil menace is personified by glamorously haughty Victoria Vinciguerrra (Elizabeth Debicki), a wealthy Italian heiress/crime boss.

Because of her familial connections, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), a high-spirited East German defector/car mechanic, is along for the ride, reluctantly posing as Kuryakin’s fiancé.

Humorlessly co-written by Lional Wigram and Guy Ritchie, who previously collaborated on two “Sherlock Holmes” films starring Robert Downey Jr., and elegantly photographed by John Mathieson, it’s notable, primarily, for its mod style, visual flair, and boldly crafted subtitles.

The actors look debonair in their bespoke suits, like male models in ‘60s GQ/VOGUE. The classy set design is magnificent, the catchy retro-score is period-perfect, and the stuntmen strut their stuff during the rapidly edited chase sequences. But it’s all superficial.

Problem is: perfectly chiseled Henry Cavill’s smug performance is as stiff and bland as his “Superman” outing. There’s no twinkle in his eye, no sense of amusement.

Over the years, George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Tom Cruise and others have been rumored to be attached to this cliché-riddled spy spoof which desperately needs some star-power propulsion.

Speaking of that, charismatic Hugh Grant is wasted in a small part as Waverly, the operation’s British liaison, a supervisory role played by Leo G. Carroll on the TV version.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a fashionable, yet forced 5 – and the fun has gone missing.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.