The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (12A)

Undated Film Still Handout from Man From U.N.C.L.E. Pictured: Henry Cavill. See PA Feature FILM Ritc

Undated Film Still Handout from Man From U.N.C.L.E. Pictured: Henry Cavill. See PA Feature FILM Ritchie. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Daniel Smith/Warner Bros. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Ritchie. - Credit: PA

As a former Mr Madonna, Guy Ritchie must be accustomed to being overshadowed. Still, it's got to be galling when the producer of your early films, Matthew Vaughan, then goes off and has the stellar directing career you seemed destined for.

23/07/15 PA File Photo of Guy Ritchie and Henry Cavill attending the Man From U.N.C.L.E photocall he

23/07/15 PA File Photo of Guy Ritchie and Henry Cavill attending the Man From U.N.C.L.E photocall held at Roundtables at Claridges, London. See PA Feature FILM Ritchie. Picture credit should read: Ian West/PA Photos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Ritchie - Credit: PA

Two of Vaughan's biggest successes, X-Men: First Class and Kingsmen were both grounded in a pastiche of 1960s spy romp glamour, and here Ritchie is trying to go down the same route with a film version of the popular Bond rip-off TV show of the period.

The programme is a decent subject for a big screen version because the title still has postive connotations but the only things most people remember about it is that it was about an American and a Soviet spy, Napoleon Solo and

Illya Kuryakin, working together during the Cold War.

Man Of Steel Henry Cavill does a fair approximation of Robert Vaughn's suave, unflustered, slightly oily charm, though it all seems like a lot more effort for him than it was for Vaughn. Meanwhile Lone Ranger Armie Hammer's Illya Kuryakin is just a hulking Soviet superspy. The pick of the cast is Alicia Vikander as the girl who runs rings round the boys.

Set against the backdrop of the height of the Cold War, the plot centres on Solo and Kuryakin being forced to put aside longstanding hostilities and team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organisation, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.

The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

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The film is bright and light and fast and fun, but is so busy trying to impress us with how bright and light and fast and fun and so very very 60s it is, that it largely overlooks the point of itself.

Despite what his many detractors think, Ritchie clearly does have skill and imagination but he applies it all so randomly and thoughtlessly.

For example a major action sequence is staged as something that Solo watches through the mirror of a truck as he casually enjoys a snack.

It's a really bold and risky choice — it gives the audience something fresh and unexpected but it also undercuts the value of the action, and the action is a major selling point for this kind of film.

This is supposed to be light, playful stuff, but at one point we are introduced to a villain who gets to give us a lengthy speech about his childhood and how he became a master of torture and that human beings are motivated by two things – pain and fear.

He then says that history gave him a great opportunity to perfect his skills, a point which is then emphasised with a montage from the Second World War including shots from a concentration camp.

It all adds to this sense of never knowing quite where you are with the film, or if indeed you are anywhere at all.

If The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were a dog walk, it would feature brief periods of being let off the leash to run wild interpersed with moment of being yanked violently back into line.

*** (3 Stars)

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