By: Kyle Grubb I’m not going to waste much time up here, but I am going to spoil this review: see this movie. See this movie now. Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey. Watch Kingsman. It is both an infinitely more interesting movie, and an infinitely better movie. Seriously, the marketing department did this movie an injustice. Go. Now. This review won’t be going anywhere.
In Life: I grew up watching Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond films. The first Bond film I ever saw was Goldeneye. It was awesome. The other Brosnan movies were less awesome, but still fun times for a younger kid. Those later movies just got dragged down by crazy gadgets and insane plots and stunts. I eventually moved on and watched older Bond films, and have really enjoyed the more recent Daniel Craig ones. The fact is, I’d had my share of the classic spy films. I was familiar with the tropes and the cliches that accompanied them. When I first saw the trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service, it looked like stupid popcorn fluff. Pretty stupid popcorn fluff, but fluff all the same. It was one of those movies where I would probably see it in theaters if there wasn’t much else to see, but the odds were pretty good I’d give it a pass, maybe catch it one DVD or on TV one day. I was aware of it, but it never inspired my curiosity. And then people started to see it. Now, and this may be a counter-productive thing to say in a review, I don’t put all that much stock in an individual review. Even in the macro sense, reviews are just an early barometer. It gives me an idea of things I should put more interest in, and draws my focus towards various stuffs that may be more worthy of my attention.
Reviews got my eyes turned towards Kingsman, but a friend I knew who saw an advanced screening: he was who convinced me that I needed to go. He was completely right.
In Review: Directed by Matthew Vaughn and inspired by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’s comic series The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Secret Service takes all of your understanding of the Spy genre and subverts it with loving reverence. While Kingsman takes many jabs at the super-spies that came before it, this is a movie that marches at its own beat. This movie will surprise you at multiple turns, and the sharp writing and amazing action will keep your eyes glued to the screen and your butt at the edge of your seat until the final frame.
Kingsman is the story of a lower-class young man, Eggsy, who is drawn into the dangerous world of super-spies and espionage when an old acquaintance of his father recruits him. As Eggsy trains to become a Kingsman, an elite and privileged shadow organization, free of ties to any government. which has spent its history keeping the world safe from all manner of evil. Evil, though, again rears its ugly head when a wealthy businessman of great ambition turns his eyes toward solving the worlds problems in a manner that only the most wicked of Bond villains could. As the Kingsman prepare themselves for one of the most dangerous threats they’ve ever faced, Eggsy finds himself right in the middle of deciding mankind’s future. The film stars Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, and Michael Caine, and nearly the entire cast are given moments to shine with their well-written and interesting characters. Front and center for much of the movie is Colin Firth’s Harry Hart. Code-named Galahad, Harry is gentleman and badass in equal measure. Representative of everything the Kingsman are supposed to be, he is father figure, action-hero, and mentor. Firth brings charm and class to the role, and never for a moment do you doubt the strength of the man. Samuel L. Jackson is also fantastic as the film’s antagonist Valentine. While Jackson is known to basically play himself in almost every film (not saying that’s a bad thing), here he is allowed to play much more. Valentine is an interesting villain, one who pursues genocide but is sick at the sight of blood. As you may have heard, though, the movie is very much Egerton’s. Eggsy is, in many ways, the perfect spy for the modern age. While the trailers may have painted him to be a hooligan and criminal, in reality he’s a young man gifted with intelligence, loyalty, and a good heart. While he is crass, he has the heart of a hero from the word go. Taron Egerton portrays the character masterfully, and we can easily watch as he matures and develops throughout the film. Late in the movie is a scene where Eggsy finds himself fitting in with the pompous and upper-crust, and we watch as he guides himself through with perfect grace. It’s a far cry from anything the character could have done at the beginning of the movie, but at no point does his growth come off as surprising. Both Caine and Strong have roles very familiar to those who have dabbled in the James Bond world, and both allow enough tweaks and twists to be memorable. In addition, Sophie Cookson is enjoying herself as Roxy, a fellow recruit training alongside Eggsy, and Sophia Boutella channels the classic villainous sidekick as Gazelle, Valentine’s right hand girl with a pair of deadly blades for legs. The film handles all of its characters with care, and knows exactly who they are.
Both the story and characters on paper sound cliche, and they’re meant to. There are few things, in grand concept, that Kingsman innovates for itself. It draws heavily on the past, and wears its inspiration on its sleeve. Where in innovates is in using those expectations against the audience and taking the story in directions that few classic spy films ever did. Every moment of the film is coated in as much style as its spies are, and the spectacle of the film is something to behold. A cookie-cutter young-adult spy comedy this is not, no matter what the trailers may suggest. The action is where this film shines, though, no matter the quality of its writing or characters. Every action scene is visually engrossing and brilliantly choreographed. Unlike many action movies recently, at no point does the film become hard to follow even during the fastest of fights. It shows, in full splendor, the brutal grace of the violence unfolding before the audience. In particular is probably the most talked about scene in the movie, the Church Scene. In many ways, the Church Scene is the whole movie in a microcosm: it’s loud, fast, stylish, brutal, and surprisingly moving. While putting its name in consideration for the best action scene in the last ten years, this scene also holds with it a powerful emotional undercurrent. While you’re marveling at the fantastic film-making on-screen, your heart is simultaneously breaking. While the controversy around the scene may end up eclipsing the power of it, there’s no doubt that it is a remarkable piece of cinema.
For anyone thinking of bringing younger viewers into this film, you may want to reconsider. This film earns its R with reckless abandon. There is a fair amount of adult language, and the action is hyper-violent in many scenes. Many of its humor would also go over the head of young audience-members. Plus the final scene is pretty delightfully crude. The movie is unashamedly an action movie for adults, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone below at least 13.
In Summation: I honestly don’t want to talk too much about this film in the hopes of spoiling it. For what it is, it’s practically flawless. The comedy is enjoyable, the action is spectacular, the acting is fantastic across the board, and the movie, most surprisingly of all, has quite a lot of heart. It’s ridiculousness only draws further attention to its more serious moments, and the film, looking at it as a whole, knows exactly what it is. It shows so much love to classic spy films, James Bond in particular, but also isn’t afraid to blaze its own trail. It’s clever and unpredictable, and will give you quite a fair amount of laughs. Essentially it is, in many ways, a perfect action movie. It has a great hero, a fun villain, awesome cinematography, stylish action, and a good story to boot. So why aren’t you seeing it yet?
Kingsman: The Secret Service