If there is a spectrum of British spy movies, James Bond would most certainly sit at the very top, and Austin Powers would sit at the bottom. This scale isn’t of quality, but of seriousness and scope. Bond saves the world from Cold War-era threats and now terrorists. Austin Powers battles his nefarious “brother,” Dr. Evil from extorting ridiculously high or low sums of money from world leaders. But now a new mark on the spectrum has come, and it sits firmly in the center, borrowing from both Bond and Powers and carving out it’s own niche in the British spy movie game.
Kingsman: The Secret Service takes a comic book-inspired look at the spy thriller. It helps that the property is actually based off a Mark Millar comic. But there is danger and romance and gadgets and plots to hurt the world on a global scale, and the action is ramped up high and it’s all done in that frenetic pace of a multi-paneled, four color world.
Colin Firth stars as Galahad, a Kingsman, one of twelve who work in secrecy ensuring the safety of the British crown. When a Kingsman dies on a mission early on, Galahad has to break the news to the widow and her young son. The widow refuses any assistance from the people who got her husband killed, so Galahad offer the same deal of protection to the young boy, Eggsy.
Flash forward 17 years and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a troubled youth, dabbling in street crime and trying to do right in the world he lives in. His mother remarried a low level thug and Eggsy despises his stepfather and his stepfather’s cronies.
In another part of the world, a prominent professor (Mark Hamill) is kidnapped and the Kingsman try to rescue him, resulting in the death of Lancelot (Jack Davenport). This opens up a spot at the table, if you understand your Arthurian mythology, and after getting himself into trouble with the law, Eggsy is given a shot to compete for that spot.
The cast is topped off with Michael Caine as Arthur, the head of the Kingsman, Mark Strong as Merlin, and Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine, an American tech genius and billionaire with plans to save the earth, one way or another. Sofia Boutella plays Gazelle, Valentine’s right hand, er, woman, who has prosthetic legs that can become swords (which is just as cool as whatever you just imagined). Sophie Cookson plays Roxy, another candidate for Lancelot’s spot and Eggsy’s romantic interest.
Kingsman: The Secret Service plays it serious for the most part, with the right amount of action and humor and sense of wonder as we, the audience, are introduced to the Secret Service. The action is over the top, as is the violence, and Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) uses his comic book movie roots to create a hyper-real world. It toes the line of absurdity very well, and though one scene almost turns the entire production into one long commercial for a fast food giant, the world of the Kingsman is very well grounded.
And it’s because of that that when we get into the third act and the plot thickens, as they say, Kingsman becomes something else. In fact, when there stakes are raised and everything is finally on the line, that’s when the film truly wanders into the realm of fantastic. The last 20 minutes of Kingsman: The Secret Service are the best 20 minutes I’ve had in a movie theater since last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. There are jokes, action, massively choreographed fight scenes, world-altering countdowns, mass destruction, tons of deaths, and even some anal sex. Who needs 50 shades of whatever? I have the Kingsman.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of those movies that hits all the right notes at all the right times. It’s a fantastic action adventure film that bleeds coolness at every turn and creates a world so hyper-real that as soon as the lights came up, I wanted a sequel. Vaughn and company have created the next great comic book franchise, if only it will find an audience, an audience it deserves. I walked out of the theater smiling, and with the sudden urge to go get fitted for a suit, which as the film explains, is the modern gentleman’s suit of armor. I still have that urge as I sit here writing this and that may be the biggest takeaway of them all.
Kingmans: The Secret Service is rated R and is in theaters nationwide.
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