Fun at the cinema is becoming a rare commodity these days. Big summer tent pole movies are now more serious and dour, supposed comedies earn the adjective I just used to describe them and even family-focussed films almost always try to deliver a sombre message of some sort. Thankfully, Matthew Vaughn seems to feel the same and has set out to put the fun back into the spy genre.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is the perfect antidote to the more recent trend of serious spy movies. From Bond to Bourne to Bauer, the genre has been sapped of its humour and ridiculousness. Based on the Mark Miller comic series, and once again, adapted brilliantly by Jane Goldman and Vaughn (they gave Kick-Ass the same treatment), Kingsman tells the story of a young directionless man who is finally given the opportunity to realise his potential and save the world from a megalomaniac with a diabolical scheme. Along the way, we get to enjoy ingenious gadgets, wry humour and debonair suits.
• Director: Matthew Vaughn
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 15
• Run Time: 129 mins
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is the youth in question. He is the typical good guy brought up in the wrong part of town. After calling in a favour from Harry (Colin Firth), his deceased father’s friend, Eggsy is given the chance to become a Kingsman agent. The organisation is an independent spy agency set up to protect the world – a modern-day take on the Knights of the Round Table. Put through a gruelling training regime by the Kingsman’s version of Merlin (Mark Strong), Eggsy must prove himself worthy of donning the suit.
All the while, Samuel L. Jackson’s character, billionaire Richmond Valentine, plans to save the planet with a typically over-the-top scheme reminiscent of those of the early Bond villains. His blade-wearing henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), follows the same traditions of unique and memorable side-kicks like Jaws or Oddjob, aiding Valentine in his plans. Kingsman borrows heavily from the spy thrillers that inspire it but also never feels beholden to them.
Vaughn continues his trend of picking relatively unknown talent and kicking their careers into overdrive – see Chloe Grace Moretz, Jennifer Lawrence, Daniel Craig and now Taron Egerton. He deserves all of the plaudits he will inevitably get for his portrayal of Eggsy. It would have been so easy for the character to either end up as a caricature but he delivers both in terms of Eggsy’s humour and heart. Firth, as always, gives a sterling performance as Harry and appears to have the most fun in the cast. The rest of the supporting roles are also strongly performed, including Strong and Jackson.
Obviously, being a fun spy movie, Kingsman relies heavily on its gadgets during its exhilarating action scenes. There are pistols with shotgun shells “for messy, close-quarter conditions”, watches with blow-darts, bullet-proof umbrellas and Oxford shoes with hidden, spring-loaded blades inside them. The blades Gazelle wears also allow us to experience some of the most violent fight scenes I have seen in a while, but nothing compares to the Church (you’ll see…).
The only area where Kingsman could have added the same inventiveness to it but seemingly didn’t, was in the plot. From the beginning, as events transpire and new characters are introduced, it is far too predictable what is going to happen and to whom. Goldman and Vaughn do well to inject humour and genuine character moments into the film, but the roadmap is too easily seen.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a love letter to the spy movies of old. Relishing the opportunity to play with outlandish gadgets and memorable characters, Vaughn and his crew have created one of the most fun movies I have seen in years. If you feel jaded by the overly sombre tone of action movies recently and want something a little less stiff, I cannot recommend Kingsman highly enough.