It appears that we have a new hit movie franchise on our hands.
A SUIT IS A MODERN GENTLEMAN’S ARMOR
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Kingsman: The Secret Service is an exciting, engrossing action film that had me engaged right from the opening minutes. A solid cast mixed with mind-blowing cinematography left me nearly cheering out loud at times. The film is a clear homage to British Spy Thrillers, particularly James Bond. Oh, and it’s not afraid to offend.
The story begins in the past, as we see a secret agent sacrifice himself to save the rest of his team during a raid in the Middle East. Harry Heart, code-named “Galahad,” delivers the news to Michelle Unwin, the agent’s widow. He gives a small medal to her young son, Gary “Eggsy” and offers help if they ever need it via a phone number and a coded message.
Fast forward 17 years. Eggsy is now an unemployed punk, full of untapped potential. He left training for the Royal Marines, despite a clear intelligent capability. Now in jail for stealing a car, Eggsy calls the number left by Harry Hart. Hart explains to Eggsy the existence of the Kingsman, a secret intelligence agency. A new “Lancelot” is needed, a void left by Eggsy’s father’s death. Eggsy is named Hart’s candidate in a pool of 9 that are to face challenges and training together in an effort to become Lancelot.
Meanwhile, Richmond Valentine is an Internet Billionaire Celebrity that offers a free SIM cards to anyone that wants one. This allows free internet access and cellphone usage, among other things. A string of well known professors, celebrities, and artists go missing. The Kingsman become involved as the plot takes root.
The film’s cast was phenomenal. The perfect balance of suave, sexy, and prestige was struck. Taron Egerton plays Eggsy. He is the perfect misfit, going from troubled teen to slick, sharp gentleman. You see, the film’s theme is centered around the Kingsman’s organizational belief that knights and gentlemen still exist. It’s something that’s often lost in society these days. Over the course of the approximately two hour-long movie, we witness Eggsy’s evolution from loose canon to sharp shooter, from jeans and flat brimmed hats to slim fit suits and combed hair. The way he was portrayed to echo Colin Firth’s Harry Hart was spot on. Think master and apprentice.
It’s rather ironic but during the film, I saw Colin Firth represent a lot of the characteristics that make Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi so cool. He is always mild-tempered, he is masterfully skilled, and his confidence always poors out. Where the irony comes into play is that I separately saw young Anakin Skywalker in Eggsy (but perhaps in reverse, from bad to good). Of course, Obi-Wan was Anakin’s master, not unlike Hart to Eggsy. The dynamic was there and I thought it rather comical that I thought of them as their respective Star Wars dopplegangers at different, unrelated times. In fact it’s too bad that Egerton was too young during production of the Star Wars prequels, because he would have made a good Anakin.
Firth is the epitome of gentleman in his role as Hart. I actually turned to my wife during the film and said “I want to be Harry Hart.” “Manners Maketh Man” is a constant reoccurring quote from Hart. His performance was smooth and one of my favorites in recent years. Not only was his dialogue delivery on point, but his role as secret agent was completely believable. Sam Jackson plays the main villain, Richmond Valentine. The directors went in a different direction than expected here and I really respect it. Most villains in films like this are intimidating and smooth speaking – Valentine is neither. He has a hilarious lisp when he talks. He is a unique bird, so to say. He might resemble a character closer to an Austin Powers movie villain, but it just works so well here. It helps to keep the film’s tone light-hearted yet serious.
He has a ninja-like sidekick named Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella. Gazelle is an extremely skilled fighter with two prosthetic legs from the knees down that double as ultra thin blades. I was unsure if Sofia had prosthetic legs in real life because she moved so fluidly, but they were actually CG effects. This speaks to the incredible cinematography from the movie. Perhaps my favorite role (albeit a smaller role) was that of Mark Hamill as Professor James Arnold. It’s no secret that I am a big Star Wars and Batman fan – Hamill’s accent is the one that he uses as the Joker in his various appearances in Gotham City over the years. I was genuinely giddy hearing him deliver his lines.
The other notable performances include the legendary Michael Caine as Chester King/Arthur, the leader of the Kingsman and Mark Strong as Merlin, a senior Kingsman trainer. You can’t have an action film in need of an accent without Michael Caine, right? He is comfortably in command as leader of the organization. Strong is perfectly cast as Merlin.
What is truly impressive is the appearance of visuals throughout the movie. Kingsman’s action sequences are a true treat for the eyes; you likely haven’t seen anything like this before. Much like The Matrix revolutionized the way we see action movies in the late 90s, Kingsman has that same potential. The sequences have some over-the-top gore in them, but it’s what I like to call “comedy gore.” I recalled the movie Zombieland when watching these scenes. The way the action was “sliced,” you didn’t see too much of the nastiness. Big action moments were full of slow motion moments as the camera panned to different angles. Nothing ever appeared fake or over the edge. It was a true marvel.
In addition to the superb action sequences, the general overhead shots of settings and landmarks was plain gorgeous. A film hasn’t looked this good in years and that’s saying a lot. There’s a bunch of reasons that I want to watch the film again, perhaps none more significant than the camera work.
There wasn’t much to complain about with Kingsman. The film features a large amount of profanity and vulgarity and I feel that often times, that shows a lack of intelligence or shows a general laziness with writing. See HBO’s Game of Thrones, a series that features a high focus on out of place swearing and unnecessary violence for the sake of ratings. However with Kingsman, as the film went on, I think a bit of clarity was shown as the story continues on. The vulgarity slows down as Eggsy’s training goes on and he becomes a better gentleman. A gentleman wouldn’t swear frequently or at least in front of company. The greater theme behind the vulgarity seems to be a direct parallel.
Kingsman: The Secret Service ushers in a new era of spy thrillers, being able to run with the big dogs such as James Bond and Mission Impossible. This could be the start of a new generation of action films with a new hero, solid writing, and phenomenal cinematography.
+ Incredible camera work, CG effects, and impressive clarity provide a unique new way of visualizing action movies.
+ Impressive cast nails their respective roles. Good mix of newcomers and veteran stars.
+ Engaging from the first minute through the mid-credits scene.
– Vulgarity could be a turn off due to overusage, but serves a greater purpose in the story arch if you can get past it.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. He wants to be a modern gentleman.