Picking apart plotting in the Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Picking apart

I recently saw the 2015 movie of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wasn’t terribly impressed, but one thing stood out for me. There is some terrible plot sleight of hand going on. Let’s have a look.

Sleight of Hand

I’m not going to review this movie, just point out something I noticed.

There are several scenes in this movie that initially don’t quite make sense. Then a few minutes later you see a flashback to that nonsensical scene, only now you see that it was actually a longer scene and stuff was cut from it. This replay suddenly makes sense.

This kind of sleight of hand is what you often see in heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven. Something happens and everything seems to be falling apart, but then it’s revealed that it was actually all part of the plan. Only, in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it’s just a gimmick that falls flat on its face.

This style works well in heist movies, of course, but it is a form misdirection, and misdirection is a form of lying. By leaving out some crucial scenes or character interactions, the audience thinks one thing is happening. Then you reveal the full truth, and suddenly it turns out something else was going on. If done well, it comes across as clever. If done wrong, it feels as if the writer was lying to the audience to get a cheap thrill.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. goes even further. The initial scene with the missing pieces simply doesn’t make sense any more. As a viewer, you immediately know you are being lied to, and you get to watch as a very weird sequence of events plays out. Then, you get to see the same thing again, only now in a way that does make sense. Not only are you being lied to, you get to see the same scene twice, ruining the pacing.

I truly do not get why the director did this. I can only think that he wanted to do something fresh and artsy.

Well, guess what? – It didn’t work.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy author/blogger from the Netherlands