Movie Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is one of the movies that could be really bad or really good. Luckily, it’s the latter. I first caught a teaser last spring at WonderCon and then at a press conference with the stars last summer at Comic-Con. I was immediately intrigued. The movie looked unique and different. It’s like the earlier James Bond movies, meet “Spy Kids,” but not quite. Especially with dramatic actor Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) as the lead, playing against type, mixed with Marvel’s go-to handler Samuel L. Jackson (“The Avengers,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Thor“), and directed by the director who directed one of the best superhero movies of all-time, Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”), it could be a bloody good movie. Indeed.
Firth is Harry Hart, a veteran kingsman, is a member of an elite spy organization that operates outside of the British government. Kingsman gets critical missions done effectively outside of bureaucracy or politics. He comes to the aid of Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young man running in trouble with the law. Eggsy’s father was a kingsman, who died in the line of duty, saving Harry and his fellow agents. Harry takes Eggsy under his wing, offering him a spot as a trainee in the top secret spy training program. He sees a smart young man full of potentials, who can do much more with his life. The movie lightly touches on class divisions and how one can change his life forward, even without having the privilege of being been born with a silver spoon. Being a gentleman is a learned skill; down to the tailored suit and Oxford shoes.
Valentine (Jackson), a megalomaniac mastermind, is hellbent on world domination. Through biological warfare, he intends to use mind-control technology to steer humans to destroy one another, in order to rid of overpopulation and start anew with the select few, such as the rich, celebrities, prominent business and academic figures, dignitaries and politicians under his control. The way he does this and how it all goes down is something that must be seen to believed. Gloriously preposterous, ultra-violently fun.
The opening action scenes are impressively eye-popping. The first is the snowy mountaintop cabin massacre, introducing Valentine’s henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), cleanly slices a man in half with her metal blade feet. The second is the bar scene, where Eggsy is getting an eyeful of his soon-to-be-mentor, a mild-mannered gentleman, Harry, showing his expert fighting skills disarming several bullies, partly using his umbrella, beer mug and darts. Later he demonstrates his prowess again in a crazed mass-fight in a church.
From there, the movie continues to roll fast, ferocious and uproarious. Eggsy meets the head honcho of the spy training program, Arthur (Michael Caine, “The Dark Knight” trilogy), tech master, Merlin (Mark Strong, “The Imitation Game”), and his fellow recruits. The recruits are tested and pushed to the limit through a series of thrillingly twisted sessions; immersed in water, exhilarating skydive and air spinning, trapped on a train track, and finally firing a bullet during a high stake moment. What makes these more effective is because a scene can start or appear innocuous and then you’d realize it’s part of the test. Those who do not pass are let go.
Eggsy and a fellow recruit prove themselves to be more than capable when they’re called on to stop Valentine from fully realizing his evil plan and subsequently save the world. It’s a massive, explosive (literally) showdown not to be missed.
Firth can add another notch to his seasoned acting belt, as he joins the league of late-bloomer action stars here. Egerton is a newcomer no more. He carries his own weight, with a witty, nonchalant confidence and believable fighting chops. Jackson looks like he’s giving us self-aware winks with this role, a play that shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” has substance, even as it’s heavy with style. It has a plot and twists, pays homage to the spy genre and brings back the fun. It’s dynamically directed, sensationally choreographed and exemplarily executed. As a disclaimer, some of the violent elements (and must be one of the highest body counts filmed) or crude language may be a bit much for the sensitive or squeamish. It should be noted though that the violence tends to be ‘comic-book’ style, so it’s not close-to-reality gore, which makes it much easier on eyes.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is absurdly over-the-top, sleekly stylized, expansive and inventive, and most importantly, outrageously fun. And come to think of it, it’s the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time.
Copyright (c) 2015. Nathalia Aryani
Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.