When a movie has a bad script or a less than riveting story, we often find that those films will over-compensate in other areas to make up for this integral flaw. The remake of “Tron” tried to use 3D and other visual effects to cover up its incompetent script, and the “Transformers” series uses insane amounts of CGI to try to hide the fact that nothing about the entire franchise makes any sense in the slightest, especially the most recent entry. Sometimes these faults aren’t too bad, however. “The Iron Lady” tries to cover up for it’s ultimate story-telling flaws with an incredible Oscar-winning central performance from Meryl Streep as the unflappable Margret Thatcher. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” is different from most films I’ve seen under this category because it decides to go with excessive style to distract from its underwhelming story, and almost gets away with it.
It was easy to tell that this film was going to be all about style and atmosphere right from the opening sequences. The beginning of the film was well crafted and stylish, and did a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the film. But with a time like the 1960’s in settings all across Europe, it is easy to have a wealth of style. The 60’s, when portrayed in cinema, are a time when class had a different definition than it does today and the biggest insult you could give to a man was questioning his sense of fashion. It was a time of real men doing real things after finally being victorious in World War II. Classy drinks, beautiful cars, immaculate outfits and brilliant set pieces aren’t quite enough to salvage this film unfortunately.
This film ultimately falls short because, like I mentioned above, the story just can’t carry it’s own weight and a good storyline is the central component of every great film. This film is a case of just too much style and not enough substance to back it up. There are films out there than can brilliantly combine style and substance, “The Godfather” and “The Matrix” being a few, so it can be done. Surprisingly, the storyline in this film is even weaker than that in “Spectre.” It’s a fun, innocent ride with brilliant chemistry from the lead characters and some funny moments along the way. There’s a loads of pomp and circumstance that is enjoyable for a bit while watching the film, but it lacks a meaningful aftertaste or anything to ponder once the screen goes black. There’s nothing in this film that is going to stick with you after you leave the theater. I may very well watch this film sometime in the future while hanging out with some friends just to make us feel a bit classier, but there’s nothing here that is going to make me want to watch the film and reflect on the message that is has to offer.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015): 2/4 stars