A fully energetic spy movie with fierce fun to be found in its send up of James Bond aspects. The story based on a Mark Millar/ Dave Gibbons comic is as sharp as the suits on display in the Kingsman tailor shop and the action is stylish, with extra energetic influence delivered by Matthew Vaughn.
(vague spoilers will follow in this review)
Suave gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is part of a well ordered spy unit titled the Kingsman Secret Service and after the death of a fellow knight, Hart and others have to find a candidate to go through tests to fill the absent spot. Smart yet petty criminal Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is Hart’s pick and soon missing parachutes and flooding rooms aren’t as bad as stopping a villain with a plan to cull the worlds population.
It’s a superbly smart screenplay by Matthew Vaughn and collaborator Jane Goldman. They mix spy genre tropes into their own narrative and add twists and tasty treats along the way in this non-stop action thrill ride. The send-ups aren’t forced and work into the plot really well, they’re also done lovingly with a clear and smiling nod to the films of old that influence this cheerful movie.
Adding in specific themes of celebrity culture is a stroke of genius, of course apt for the times we live in now and as The Sun newspaper front covers adorn Hart’s office, it’s befitting and sadly true hearing how a lot of people only like hearing of skin-deep news, the major important stories take a back seat…past page 3 to be even more current. The celebrity obsession continues in this story as the villain of the piece seems keen to keep big named figures safe from his plan. The dropping in of turns in the road make the film continuously entertaining, the threat of Valentine’s scheme coming back time and time again leading countries of the world fighting to the death as Eggsy attempts to prove himself as Kingsman material.
The Bond jokes are perfect, from little funny moments such as Eggsy ordering a martini in his own special way to huge parallels of spy movie plot lines. The way in which Valentine adored the classic Bond movies, as do I, is neatly explored. This film has callings of Bond and then does its own thing with them also. A major and actually shocking surprise comes as Valentine skips a typical Bond spiel. The mirroring doesn’t stop there as the baddie has his own trademark like Blofeld’s scar or Le Chiffre’s bleeding eye, Richmond Valentine has a vocal impediment and a vomiting reaction to blood. The henchman act once taken by Oddjob or thighs of thunder Xenia Onatopp is filled by metal legs of terror, Gazelle. The final setting even resembles the hollowed out base vibe loved by SPECTRE. As I said, this film plays on the massive series of Bond but then adds its own unique touch which is great. The guy getting the girl is flipped and an expected romance never happens as the growing chav hero ends on an eye-winking moment akin to Connery in ‘Dr No’ or Moore in ‘Moonraker’.
The actual direction of this movie is stunning, the sequences are boldly done and all work in never making the film feel long for a run time of 129 minutes. Camera movements are frenetic for fights making it feel more real in similarity to Bourne handicam. The camera seems to bounce, zoom in and out and dosey do pumping up the action a lot. It comes with that Vaughn touch he showed in ‘Kick-Ass’ and the comic book style is evident. Moments without action are just as great with tension mounting as Eggsy is pushed in his quest to become the new Lancelot. A close up of a pugs face will never try and move you as it does in this film.
Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson get a ten out of ten for their score, it might not be Whiplash standard but it ticks all the boxes for a film of this calibre. Suspense heaps up through the plane dive really making you dread how it’ll play out. A ferocious guitar riffs during a church fight making it so much more thrilling. The music really added to the filmic experience and I guess the IMAX speakers pronounced their work that much better.
Colin Firth breaks his mould in this film, a trend after ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ that I hope he continues. The swearing yet posh act is elevated as he becomes a spy with edge and gleeful heroism of fighting anyone who gets in his way. Taron Egerton gets a big break here and he does fantastic stuff with it. He’s never not likable, the crime angle being one side of his life and you root for him as he comes up against toff prejudice. The journey to his Kingsman world is acted well and looking slightly like a young Firth as the film progresses helps sell the story too. Samuel L. Jackson looks to have tremendous delight in speaking with a devilish lisp as tech baddie Richmond Valentine. The perfect villain to oppose the good persona of the plot.
Stand out fun stylish movie-making that echoes extravagant Bond gadgetry while mixing in its own brand of sinister threat and test of gentlemanly conduct. An exhilarating tour de force that sparkles with jovial over the top violence, spy sophistication and intelligent story craftsmanship. Bravo.