Spy-Fi finally arrives in the 21st century with this film, adapting the genre to the new century in a way that the James Bond franchise, the films this one is a tribute to, has failed to do.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2015 British-American spy action comedy film directed by Matthew Vaughn, and based on the comic book The Secret Service, created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. The screenplay was written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman. It follows the recruitment and training of a potential secret agent, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), into a very secret spy organization called the Kingsmen.
Eggsy joins a mission to tackle a global threat from Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a wealthy megalomaniac. The film also stars Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Michael Caine. Mark Hamill also appears in the film and even manages to squeeze in a little of his best Joker laugh and voice during his brief appearance.
There’s so much to like about this film, its hard to know where to start when talking about it. This is spy-fi done well. It does pretty much everything right. Unlike the James Bond franchise, it remembers to include some of the fun of one of my favorite sub genres without getting silly and stupid like the Roger Moore Bond films did. Kingsman is a tribute that not only works, but actually outdoes the Bond films its a parody of.
Kingsman even models itself to the point of being like the Bond films by starting off with an action packed preface, a traditional feature of the Bond films that re-introduces the main character, and has him escaping a difficult situation in a unique manner. In this case it sets up the film’s story and what is to follow.
There is also stuff in this film that reminds me a lot of John Steed from the delightful 60’s British spy-fi series The Avengers (1961-1969). The way the Kingsmen dress, for example exemplifies the traditional appearance of the old school upper-class Britsh man in business attire, and a catchphrase from the film ‘Oxfords not Brogues’ is a reference to this.
The film has all the requisite elements for films of this kind, a colorful megalomaniac villain, Richmond Valentine, (Samuel L Jackson really hamming it up and speaking with a lisp), with a formidable, and deadly henchman, (Sofia Boutella as Gazelle – a woman in this case), a dazzling and fun array of high tech gadgets and devices that the plot revolves around, plenty of action and adventure, and of course, the ladies, who are well represented in this excellent and very entertaining film.
The damsel in distress this time around is amusingly, and literally a princess in keeping with the film’s tongue-in-cheek tone. She’s no fairy tale princess though, but a modern woman with appetites, and a temperament that says she’s no fragile flower, but a real woman.
The villain, Valentine’s plot is a simple one; use the world’s cell phones to generate a wave that affects people’s brains, and turns people into homicidal maniacs. He’s convinced the world’s biggest problem is too many people, and his plan is designed to radically reduce the world’s population
The secret organization the film portrays, the Kingsmen, are not the MI6 a lot of spy movie fans may be familiar with, but an even more secret organization started by a group of stalwart British noblemen who took it upon themselves to be the guardians of their nation, while remaining behind the scenes to the point that kept their existence a secret from the world.
The Kingsmen are modeled after the Arthurian legends with their agents adopting the names of famous Arthurian knights. There’s even a Merlin (Mark Strong), who serves as the film’s equivalent of Q from the Bond films, except this time around, he serves many purposes, having many of the abilities of Kingsman himself, and even goes out into the field.
The main protagonist, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), is a character who is a young man that dresses in the fashion of someone who is fan of hip-hop, and is unquestionably a product of the working class. The kid’s not a wimp, he’s intelligent and athletic. When he is chased by a group of ruffians looking for revenge he shows an ability to engage in parkour and escapes them with ease.
A lot of the plot revolves around him. The fact that he’s a commoner, and has a working class life, plays a big role in the film’s narrative. Things are set in motion for him to be part of this story, early in the film, which actually starts while he’s still a toddler. It begins with the death of his father, a Kingsman, who makes a noble sacrifice,and gets killed while on a mission. Later, this event affects his life choices, he is hesitant to explore opportunities because he doesn’t want to leave his mother like his father involuntarily did.
When he gets into trouble with the law, he calls a number to call in a favor from a man who was a friend and fellow agent of his father’s, Harry Hart, aka Galahad (Colin Firth), he is the personification of the British class structure just short of aristocracy, and indeed, a lot of the story this film tells is about Eggsy’s encounter with some of the country’s upper class youth he meets while training to become a Kingsman. He is a mutt among purebreds, a fish out of water, and it soon becomes apparent he in for a lot of bullying and unpleasant treatment by these snobby a-holes.
This is a violent film, there’s all sorts of unpleasant things that happen to people doing its depiction of the story, but I would be amiss if I did not mention one scene in particular that tales place. Fans of this film know I am referring to the church scene when Valentine tests his satellite operated device that makes people into violent killing machines that target whoever is in close proximity. This scene is remarkable and memorable for its graphic portrayal of the harm people can inflict on each other when all restraint to not do so is removed. Its a scene the equal of which I have only seen in one other film, Hardcore Henry (2015) a film where action like this is nearly relentlessly endless.
There’s also another scene that’s darkly amusing, when Valentine’s security implants are triggered it sets off a sequence of people’s heads exploding to a musical rendition of Pomp and Circumstance, almost as if its a chorus line dance routine from a Busby Berkley film.
In the end, I suppose, it could be said this story has some of the qualities of a fairy tale. Eggsy overcomes all the obstacles in his path and becomes a Kingsman, and quite a good one at that. Harry, his mentor gets killed, so it seems as if Eggsy may be in line to become the next Galahad, and as anyone familiar with the Arthurian legends knows, Galahad was the greatest knight of all.
Eggsy saves the day and gets the girl, who promises him a special, very un-ladylike prize if he rescues her from her cell. Despite that, this remains one of the best spy-fi films I have seen in a long time. It is an immensely enjoyable and entertaining film and I am very excited about the sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, that is scheduled for release on June 16, 2017.
The sequel stars Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges, and the premise of the film has been said to be a story where Eggsy, Merlin and Roxy head to the United States to join forces with Statesman, their US counterpart, after the Kingsman HQ is destroyed by Poppy, an evil American mastermind. Despite his character’s death it has been rumored Colin Firth could possibly return for the sequel.
Much of the material for the original Kingsman was based on Millar’s graphic novel, adapted by Vaughn and Goldman for the silver screen. That being so, Millar never wrote a sequel, meaning the story for the follow-up film will be completely and utterly original. It gives the screenwriting team a whole lot of leeway for a new story, but at the same time it also removes the safety net of source material. Kingsman 2 will be a big moment for Vaughn and Goldman, showing whether or not they’re up to the challenge of carrying this franchise’s story on their own.