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The Man from U.N.C.L.E (3 stars)

Stylish but poorly scripted spy caper starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E

credit: Daniel Smith

Based on the vintage American TV series, Guy Ritchie’s first feature since 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a pristine Cold War lookbook of 1960s spy fashion. Reimagining the era’s sexiest spies is tricky. After all, these are the roles that made stars of Robert Vaughn and Glasgow’s own David McCallum. Instead of relying on analogue gadgets and retro threads alone, Ritchie gets it right by casting the too-handsome Henry Cavill (the 'Man of Steel' no less) as egomaniac Napoleon Solo, and the charismatic Armie Hammer as the quietly skilled Illya Kuryakin, here revamped with emotional issues.

They are duelling CIA and KGB agents who team up to save a German scientist’s useful yet also beautiful daughter Gaby (Alicia Vikander) from evil Italian clotheshorse Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki). The feisty Vikander doesn’t spoil her record of consecutive immaculate performances. Debicki, however, seems bored with the trappings of a one-dimensional baddie, despite winning on the clothes and accessories front.

Sexy locations like Naples and Greenwich are the perfect backdrop for a good old fashioned nuclear scare story, but Ritchie and co-writer Lionel Wigram’s script is vague and juddery, and the clunky dialogue torpedoes their chance of creating a double-trouble version of Bond.

However, expect a few laughs amongst the sporadic squeals of delight: Hugh Grant’s Waverly, the shadowy spy game’s controller, is a supporting role that breaks the fourth wall; Grant doesn’t even pretend, and is all the more fun for it. David Beckham and Jared Harris add further style to this cool and exciting retrofit of a TV series that was itself unpredictable and often ridiculous. Loaded with beautiful men, handsome women, stunning sartorials (designed by Oscar-nominee Joanna Johnston) and ticking bombs, there's also one incredible set piece that you really don't want to miss.

General release from Fri 14 Aug.

The Man from UNCLE

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 116 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Guy Ritchie
  • Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant
  • UK release: 14 August 2015

This stylish rendition of the 60s spy series suffers from a vague and clunky script, but is somewhat redeemed by the skilful casting of Cavill and Hammer. Grant has enormous fun as the shadowy controller Waverly, and there's one incredible set piece you don't want to miss.

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