Everyone knows that Kingsman: The Secret Service is by no means a Bond film. The public knew that from the second the trailer revealed the film starred a youth who “speeks loik he is missin’ a few teef”. (I can just imagine him playing soccer with his mates, yelling, “Come on sir!” to the ref.) We knew that it was going to be fun. It’s got a charming male lead. (Actually, maybe 3 or 4.) It’s British. But what I didn’t anticipate was that it’s bloody stylish. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as slick, but Kingsman has its fun without getting too self-referential.
The Kingsman is an independent intelligence agency, founded centuries ago by well-meaning aristocrats around the world. In the film, we watch their latest efforts to quell world evil (Samuel L. Jackson) with new recruit, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) leading the way. But Eggsy is no ordinary secret agent. Eggsy is a lad. And not just your run of the mill lad. Eggsy is the lad with a heart of gold. He never grasses on his mates. He won’t run over small animals, despite being chased by police through London (reversing the entire time). Hell, he purposely crashed a car so he could take the fall for his friends. So, our favourite new lad is a sweet kid. Him, his mum and his little half-sister live in council housing with his mother’s douchebag boyfriend, Dean. Eggsy and Dean don’t get on (it might be to do with the fact that Dean physically abuses Eggsy’s mum). On top of this, Eggsy lives a life full of unfulfilled potential. As a child he was a talented gymnast and was incredibly smart. He even trained for the Royal Marines, but left so he could stay with his mum. So where does the Kingsman come in? Well, Eggsy’s dad was a Kingsman agent who sacrificed his life to save his comrades from an explosive device, undetected by Harry Hart (code-name Galahad), played by Colin Firth. After a run in with the police, Eggsy gets recruited by Agent Hart (Eggsy’s sort of pseudo-father figure) and joins a group of affluent candidates – all competing for a spot in the Kingsman (a vacancy made after Agent “Lancelot” was killed). From then on we join Eggsy on his journey of secret agent training, pugs and learning to become baby Colin Firth. It’s even charming enough to distract you from the largely one-dimensional characters.
If you don’t want to know some very insignificant, but fun moments of the film – don’t read this paragraph.
1. Eggsy’s first night of training
This sequence was a great intersection of a cool setting, character exposition and an interesting conclusion. In this scene it is the candidate’s first night of training. They are sound asleep until woken by water very rapidly flooding their room. The room is completely filled within seconds. The well-trained, thoroughly prepared applicants immediately use the pipes from showerheads as sort of oxygen tanks, by placing them up the U-bend of their toilets. Eggsy of course doesn’t know this at all and is left to his own devices. He ends up saving them all by (wait for it) punching a two-way glass mirror until it cracks open. His pure determination to survive was what got the candidates through in the end. Unfortunately, in their haste one of the female recruits were left to drown. A very bittersweet scene.
2. The dogs
It’s no secret that any dog content in movies will win my heart, one way or another. Dogs are the ultimate plot device. Want me to like a character? Show them caring for a dog. Want me to hate a character? Show them doing something, anything, slightly bad to a dog. Want me to laugh? Give me a close up on a pug’s face as the owner tries to decide whether or not he should throw away his life for said pug. Ok maybe that last one wasn’t meant to be funny but I loved it nonetheless. For a bit of context, the candidates are told to choose and train a dog. Eggsy picks a pug, thinking it is a bulldog and that it will grow. (No, it won’t.) WE also get to meet Hart’s dog Mr. Pickles. I won’t say much more but it is funny.
3. Colin Firth and any type of fight sequence
Ever since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I have yearned to see Colin Firth in another spy role. Kingsman gave me all the fun of Colin Firth seemingly performing incredible fight sequences, without the confusion and required attention to detail that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy demands. I’ll just say this – the church brawl was one of the most satisfying action sequences of the movie. It involves Firth as Hart continually and unapologetically demolishing at least a 100 people. Coupled with the music and choreography, I could practically feel the adrenalin pumping through my body. I only wish there was more of this. I could watch Firth perform a whole movie of fight scenes. (Colin Firth please consider making a whole movie of fight scenes.)
4. Blade babe (aka Gazelle – Richmond Valentine’s sidekick)
What a cool idea: a double amputee sidekick assistant whose weapons of choice are her razor sharp blade runners. I don’t have much to say on the character herself, I just wanted to include that shot, which by the way, was a great moment. Basically she is jumping from a window in slow motion, with sparks and shards of glass flying.
5. Finally – a movie that satisfies my need for excluding unnecessary romances!
Although many of the candidates look down on Eggsy, he does make one friend – Roxy (Sophie Cookson). Roxy and Eggsy are great friends. She protects him from the jabs made by posh-boy-applicants, and he constantly supports her and encourages her as she fights for her place at the top of their class. It is simple and platonic and just sweet. And right now, I don’t even care about the potential spoilers. They don’t kiss! They don’t even have an inkling of romance between them! If you have read my Jurassic World review, you would know that one of my pet peeves in films are stupid, unnecessary romances that add nothing to the plot and seem to exist purely to waste screen time and give lonely males a sense of hope. Kingsman does not do this. Thank god.
With that being said, I am about to launch into some criticisms.
I know comparing movies is unfair, especially when they’re of the same nationality, but I couldn’t help but compare Kingsman to the work of Edgar Wright. The action scenes shared few things in common – fun soundtracks, sharp cutting and zippy pacing. I just don’t know if it was as effectively done. Sometimes the cutting and perspective changes weren’t quite slick enough, leaving us with this half-half effect of conventional Hollywood action scene and then Edgar Wright fight scenes. They just simply weren’t as hyperactive and witty as what I think director, Matthew Vaughn, was aiming for.
Then there was the use of music – opening the film to Money for Nothing by the Dire Straits, playing Give it Up by KC and The Sunshine Band as villain, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) waits for everybody in the world to kill each other. I loved that. There is nothing more satisfying to me, than when upbeat music underscores a violent scene. However, in some cases they were cutting between “Give It Up” and your typical orchestra soundtrack. It lost the effect for me but then again, it probably isn’t appropriate to have ♪ Baby give it up/Give it up/Baaaaby give it up ♪ narrating a mother trying to kill her baby. In saying that, there were still some really kick-ass moments that were choreographed and accompanied very well. There was even a car chase that didn’t go for too long and bore me to death. But none so satisfying as something from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz or even Spaced. But what niggles at me is the thought that maybe if Kingsman was that slick it would be too much.
Despite these criticisms about editing, I have to say, in terms of aesthetics, the cinematography (directed by George Richmond) was surprisingly nice. Many of the shots make beautiful stills (some examples are above). Moreover, I simply wasn’t expecting that majority of the movie would be filmed with such beauty. In a few of the stills, you could mistake Kingsman for A Single Man – a film that was so lavishly and lovingly composed, it almost became a perfume ad. What separated Kingsman from the likes of Skyfall was the warm, amber tones that cloaked the film.The sets ranged from quaint to modern with ease, effectively complementing each other. The Kingsman HQ is lavishly furnished with club lounges, carpets in forest green and deep red, all finished off with polished timber. Other scenes, set in a cool, polar atmosphere were not too jarring and clinical. The cinematography certainly wasn’t overwhelming, distracting or even defining – it was just…pleasant.
One thing that Kingsman does really well is poke fun at the likes of James Bond. It doesn’t stray into spoof territory, but there are plenty of wink-wink, nudge-nudge moments that I enjoyed. This first aspect is very minor, but the excess of explosions was one thing I noticed. Kingsman opens on a raid in the Middle East. There are fires everywhere, which doesn’t make much sense given the building looks like it was made from mud. As well as this we already know that grenades aren’t portable flame throwers thanks to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Moving on. There was a lot of dialogue about villains and spies that bordered on breaking the fourth wall. It was used lightly and effectively, not gratuitously for a cheap laugh. Next we had the saving the world sequence. To cut a long story short – Eggsy and senior agent, Merlin (Mark Strong) explode the heads of every person under Valentine’s influence. Ridiculous, entertaining and magnificent are words that spring to mind. Their heads explode like a combination of supernovas and fireworks. The whole sequence was mesmerising. If you can’t be bothered to watch the movie, at least watch a clip of this scene. It’s all the beauty of a fireworks show, with all the satisfaction of knowing the bad guys are being killed. Then finally we have the moment where the hero saves the world and gets the girl. Except, for Eggsy it isn’t a sultry seduction – it’s the promise of good old anal sex. Does he get it? Watch Kingsman: The Secret Service to find out.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): 7/10