REVIEW – Kingsman: The Secret Service
The rule of thumb in screenwriting is never to directly reference, even whimsically, a film which you are attempting to tribute or homage, for fear the comparison will leave your film lacking. Kingsman: the Secret Service makes numerous references to Bond and classic-era spy films, and not only holds its own against them, but could inspire a resurgence of the bigger than life style of espionage films
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Directed by Matthew Vaughan
Script by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan, from the comic by Mark Millar, Matthew Vaughan and Dave Gibbons
Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
Mark Millar is doing a damn fine job of creating brilliant little stand-alone comic mini-series that tell a coherent story, and are at the same time far from the standard fare of superhero titles. They are also almost tailor-made for adaptation into films for those very reasons. His high-action spy tale The Secret Service got a new main title and a solid cast when Millar’s co-plotter Matthew Vaughan (X-Men First Class) adapted it into Kingsman: The Secret Service.
The plot remains fairly unchanged from that of the comic, with most of the changes in the cast. Harry Hill (Colin Firth) loses his apprentice agent and close friend in a pre-title flashback assault, and delivers the bad news to his wife and young son Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Years later, new teen troublemaker Eggsy cashes in a favor to get out of a legal jam, and Harry offers him a chance to better himself in the service of the world as an agent in Kingsman, an independent organization of “Gentleman spies”. The organization gets more fleshed out in the film, and really gives the organization and its “knights” more of an interesting feel. Michael Caine is the touchstone to the classic spy era, playing Arthur, the head of Kingsman who doesn’t think Eggsy is the “right type of fellow” to be part of the organization.
Tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has been kidnapping scores of the rich and famous, at least the ones he can’t convince to willingly join his global plan to “save” the world, a plan with largely relies on not saving a great many of the people living on it. Jackson is clearly having a ball here, semi-parodying his own body of work by playing a man who can’t stand the sight of blood and speaks with a pronounced lisp. His practically required personal bodyguard and skull-cracker is Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), a double-amputee whose prosthetic legs deserve more than any other pair to be called “blades”.
The plot is traditional over the top madness, as befits an old-school super-spy flick, the acting is top-notch, the dialogue a dream, but the true stars of the film are the action sequences. Delivered with ballet grace and frenetic pace, the agents of Kingsman flow through fights with grace, never letting a wrinkle sully their immaculate suits. The action escalates to a mad pace, culminating in a climax that will (and I apologize now for that which you’ll wince at later) blow your mind. And as if there weren’t enough classic spy tropes savaged, the film ends with a scene that, while only going an inch or so further than they did in any Bond flick, is utterly shameless and sent the audience into hysterics.
Harry and Valentine have a very meta-textual conversation about the spy film genre. Harry finds the modern espionage films far too realistic and grim, and both pine for the wild schemes and larger than life characters of the classic films. Clearly so did Matthew Vaughan, because that’s what he’s delivered, and expertly.