Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Tom Prior and Jack Davenport
A veteran secret agent takes a young upstart under his wing.
Marking the second time Matthew Vaughn has directed a comic book created by Mark Millar, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a ridiculously fun movie with a wonderful sense of comic violence and a sweet heart. It’s a film that never takes itself too seriously, but treats its subject matter with respect to ensure the best cinematic experience. It may have some flaws, but there is so much to love about Kingsman: The Secret Service that they can be overlooked. Or shot at.
Matthew Vaughn left X-Men: Days of Future Past to direct Kingsman: The Secret Service based on a script he wrote with writing partner Jane Goldman for fear that the “fun spy movie” genre could take off. And he was right to do so. We’ve just had the trailer drop for the Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy and there is a revival of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on the way, so Vaughn certainly made this movie at the right time (even if it has been delayed by a year). Leaving X-Men: Days of Future Past could not have been easy for Vaughn, given the ground work he’d created with X-Men: First Class, but he clearly has a love for this project – and that is evident from the moment the movie starts. No one else could have made this movie. Even if someone had taken the framework of Vaughn’s Kick-Ass and tried to emulate his style, it never would have been this good.
The film will struggle however, in the UK at least, with overcoming the “chav” lead character. Similar to Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, there is such a vehement hatred of “chav culture” in this country that some audience members will struggle to get behind Eggsy as a hero. Frustratingly, this one of the movie’s main themes: the old-timer English gentleman of decades past making way for a new generation of that may not necessarily agree with their “toff” principles. It’s a well-timed theme given Britain’s current state where those who feel under-appreciated in society are rebelling against those with money and power (and therefore stature), because those ideals are now played out.
And, as with Attack the Block, it’s a real shame that many won’t give the character a second glance. Because Vaughn and Goldman’s script (as well as Millar’s original work) creates a really likeable ‘James Bond for a new era’ in Eggsy as he goes from this tear-away ruffian to sharp dressed super spy with an incredibly charismatic charm. And in an age where James Bond has fallen victim to the “gritty and grounded” mentality of filmmaking, Kingsman: The Secret Service feels like a breath of fresh air. Assassins with swords for prosthetic blades, villains who operate out of hollowed-out mountains, secret spy organisations that are hidden in the back walls of a tailor’s shop – Kingsman: The Secret Service is Roger Moore Bond at its finest, and it revels in the mad and insane world it has created.
Not only that, but the film also boasts an incredible cast. Big names like Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Hamill join newcomers in Taron Egerton, Sophie Cookson and Sofia Boutella, which really hammers home the “old giving way to the new” mentality of the movie. There isn’t much to say about Caine and Hamill sadly, who are in the movie for a cup of coffee (although Hamill is enjoyably campy) and there is a strong case to be made that Jackson’s hammy villain is a little over-played, but this is easily one of the best turns by Colin Firth in quite some time. As an actor, Firth had pigeon-holed himself as a go-to talent for the gentle British dramatic performance, so it’s exciting to see him in a role that demands some more comedic edges, as well as kick-arse action. Mark Strong is equally as brilliant, as are Cookson and Boutella (the latter of which performs some of the best action in the movie) but Kingsman: The Secret Service is stolen by Taron Egerton. For such a young and fresh actor, he shines beautifully. Whether he’s on screen against Firth, Caine, Jackson or Strong, he never looks out of place, he never looks uncomfortable and he certainly doesn’t look inexperienced. He looks like he belongs. If anything, it looks like he’s been doing this for decades and he never once gets overshadowed by the bigger stars on screen.
“Fun” is clearly the motif of this movie, which is shown in the brilliantly choreographed action scenes and comedic violence. Imagine Hit Girl’s rampage in Kick Ass, but stretched out longer with triple the amount of people and you start to get an idea of what to expect. Vaughn hasn’t missed a beat from his time on Kick Ass and the movie has seemingly taken some inspiration from Edgar Wright’s The World’s End with its style – constant camera movement, but never losing track of the action like you would in a typical Michael Bay outing. Couple that with a Guardians of the Galaxy-esque soundtrack and you have the recipe for action sequences that will have you beaming with smiles from ear to ear long after the credits have finished rolling.
Kingsman: The Secret Service isn’t without its flaws however, most notably in its pacing. The film doesn’t exactly drag its feet, but it’s not as quick-footed in the middle act as it should be. Because of this, the final third swings around rather quickly and Eggsy goes from training, to highly-skilled super spy in the blink of an eye. It’s not enough to ruin what is undoubtedly one of the most-fun and entertaining final acts seen in some time, but the issue is still there. The film, sadly, also features a rather poor showing for its female characters, particularly Roxy who gets shafted from all the fun of the action to play a supportive voice on the other end of a phone. Granted this is again a theme set up by the movie, but it would have been nice to see her side-by-side with Eggsy rather than a hundred miles away surrounded by safety. As mentioned, Boutella is a fierce female villain and is wickedly awesome, but there could have been more.
With that said, there is no denying that Kingsman: The Secret Service isn’t a brilliant movie. Insanely fun from the word “go”, Kingsman: The Secret Service may very well end up as one of the best action and comic book movies of the year and could easily run with the big dogs over at Marvel and DC. If you prefer your Bond to be more Roger than Daniel, you’ll have an absolute blast with Kingsman: The Secret Service. There aren’t enough films like it, but at least we have this one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.
Check out our interviews with director Matthew Vaughn and comic book writer Mark Millar below: