By Joe Strange
Brad Pit Ate My Sandwich
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a suave British secret agent appears, impeccably dressed, in a mountainside retreat on a rescue mission, a secret entrance in an otherwise ordinary location which is filled with hi-tech gadgets and weapons, and an evil lair that’s built into a mountain.
Sounds like a bond film am I right? Well now imagine the rescue mission ends in a bloody massacre, the hi-tech gadgets aren’t the property of the government, and the evil lair houses a megalomaniac evil genius who hates blood, or any kind of gore, to the point that he projectile vomits.
That’s Kingsman: The Secret Service all over. Brought to you by Matthew Vaughn, director of the gore filled Kickass and Xmen: First Class (the only cure to the poisonous Xmen Origins), and based, incredibly loosely, on the graphic novel of the same name by Mark Miller (also of Kickass fame) Kingsman is an incredibly fun, witty and stylish spy adventure that’s more than aware of where it comes from, and strikes a great balance between being familiar as well as being an original take on an age old genre.
Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is a member of the Kingsman, a secret service created after the first world war and with the intention of being an agency of protection that isn’t bound by governments and their politics. There’s only ever a select number of agents, each named after one of the Knights of the round table, the leader (Michael Caine) is codenamed Arthur, and the agency’s Q, their information and tech expert, is named Merlin (Mark Strong), well technology is basically magic isn’t it?
Each time a Kingsman agent dies the remaining ‘knights’ each put forward a recruit to be tested, with the winner becoming the next Lancelot, Galahad or whomever died. That’s where Eggsy (Taron Egerton) comes in, he’s Hart’s suggestion. Of course it’s not quite that simple, usually Kingsman are picked from the best Universities, with a definite breed of young person being recruited. Coming from a council flat in London, with an abusive stepfather isn’t on the regular candidate’s CV, but that’s Eggsy’s lot.
Running alongside Eggsy’s training, which involves team building, parachuting and er, dog training, is Hart’s investigation into a series of high profile disappearances which eventually trace back to Samuel L Jackson’s Mark Zuckerberg-esk Valentine who is complete as an evil villain with a badass Henchmen with blades for legs.
Full of tongue in cheek references to the classic Bond films, from the previously mentioned evil mountain base, to the Martini snobbery and ridiculously elaborate evil scheme, Kingsman has a lot of fun with a formula that we all know inside out, but it never goes as far as being a parody, it never stoops as low as the Austin Powers humour that put an end to the extravagant spy genre and ushered in the dark and serious Jason Bourne films and Daniel Craig era Bond. Its wacky and takes some liberties here and there, but you find yourself forgiving it instantly because it’s so charming and cleverly written.
With Kickass, Matthew Vaughn earned himself a name in intense and crazy action scenes, and with Kingsman he shows that he’s more than comfortable with that title. All of the action scenes are excellently choreographed and while the action is manic, you’re never confused as to what’s happening. Combined with some incredible cinematography and excellent camera work, the action scenes are some of the most visceral, fun and adrenaline filled of their kind; watch out for the church scene that will find you with your jaw on the floor and asking yourself ‘wait, is Colin Firth an action hero now?’ Yes. Yes he is.
The set pieces are incredible high octane fun, even the training montages have you gripping your seat, because the Kingsman take their training deadly seriously, but the action is punctuated with just the right amount of comedy to make it a really enjoyable ride. The soundtrack is stellar too, with a great blend of a scene setting original score with licensed music, the former of which is really reminiscent of the spy thrillers of old.
The cast works well together, and though some actors don’t quite get their chance to shine, those that do really stand out. The lack of a romantic sub-plot is a great boon to the film too, as the story focusses on fraternity and teamwork, and lack thereof, as oppose to doing the right thing just to get into someone’s knickers. The script doesn’t allow you to forget the overall message of the film, summed up by the repeated line ‘manners maketh man’, that it’s not where we’re from, but what we do that matters, but it’s an apt message for a story about overcoming presumptions and stereotypes.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is in cinemas on the 29th of January, and if you enjoy fun, witty scripts with great casts and excellent and over the top action scenes, and let’s face it, who doesn’t, then it’s a must watch and running at a smidge over 2 hours, it’ll fly by.