Chicago Tribune Review: "Actors strike a pose in '60s reboot"

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' review: Actors strike a pose in '60s reboot

Some movies are hung up on their own moves, and they can be terrific fun if they're directed by someone who knows how and when to move a camera. But other movies get hung up on their own looks, which is a different, vainglorious story.

Director and co-writer Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," inspired by the 1964-1968 TV series that rode the James Bond wave, tells a tale of nice suits, pretty sunglasses and actors posing, not acting. The male stars are Henry Cavill (the current Superman) as Napoleon Solo, American CIA spy with a sociopath's devotion to his wardrobe, and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, the Soviet KGB operative enlisted to team up with Solo in Cold War 1963 to unravel and destroy a Nazi-tinged, nuke-minded crime ring based in Italy.

Alicia Vikander takes the female lead, that of an East German auto mechanic (or is she?). True to every other Ritchie film, the female lead is entirely decorative. How is that Vikander, who played the robot in the recent (and worthwhile) "Ex Machina," was twice as lively and five times as human in that picture than in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."?

This is the month for retro espionage at the multiplex, what with Tom Cruise killing it in the new "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation." For those who find Cruise's screen presence slightly eerie in its unblinking concentration, get a load of Cavill in Ritchie's film. Ridiculously handsome, inhumanly smug, the Solo we have here is a clothes rack, not a protagonist. While Hammer's Kuryakin is better company (he's funny, or can be), together they're like a '60s Ken doll and Ken's exchange student frenemy from Minsk.

In The Man From U.N.C.L.E." we find out how these two adversaries meet (badly, violently) and how they learn (petulantly) to accommodate each other's lone-wolf habits. The script, heavy on ossified gay-camp inferences and jokey sadism, comes from director Ritchie and co-screenwriter Lionel Wigram, whose Robert Downey Jr.-headlined "Sherlock Holmes" movies made over a billion dollars worldwide.


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