DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughnkingsman_the_secret_service_ver6

CAST: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Jack Davenport, Sophie Cookson, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill, Samantha Womack, Richard Brake, Hanna Alström, Bjørn Floberg

RUNNING TIME: 129 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Veteran secret agent Harry Hart (Firth) recruits the trouble-making but promising young Eggsy (Egerton) into the world of espionage, in time to foil the schemes of the evil Richmond Valentine (Jackson)…

 

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The unbreakable connection between director Matthew Vaughn, writer Jane Goldman and comic creator Mark Miller worked wonders with the highly-entertaining superhero homage Kick-Ass adaptation back in 2010, and five years later the combined magic of these three individuals has resulted in yet another engaging, high-octane and extremely fun homage, this time to the Roger Moore-era series of Bond films.

However, 007 isn’t the only passing mention of the genre, with references placed here and there from The Avengers (i.e. the one with John Steed and his wacky umbrella) to The Ipcress File (though this one is down to Michael Caine being cast as the head of a spy organisation – he even wears the glasses!), ensuring that no spy flick is left unrecognised. But Bond is the key inspiration, and the Moore era in particular since its knack for presenting silly, campy ideas on a grand scale was its bread and butter, something that Kingsman: The Secret Service manages to successfully replicate and pay tribute to without feeling like one massive rip-off. There are luxuriant villain lairs located in giant mountains, martinis being ordered in the most complicated way possible, and there’s even a memorable hench(wo)man with a particular quirk that helps them stand out amongst the characters – that’d be Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle, an amputee with two very distinctive and deadly set of prosthetic legs that make Oscar Pistorius (pre-murder, obviously) look physically incapable. It’s a non-Bond that happily pays tribute to such an odd period in time for Ian Fleming’s theatrical secret agent.

Kingsman, however, also manages to be its own thing that’s just as entertaining and exciting. Those expecting a faithful adaptation of Millar’s graphic novel on which this film is based will likely find themselves disappointed, for it takes the basic idea of the comic but more or less completely changes the way it presents it – character names are changed, circumstances and events are either heavily altered or removed altogether, and it positions itself more as a proper old-fashioned spy romp than the gritty and urban tale Millar’s comic ended up taking the guise of. That being said, it works just as well in film form even with all these alterations from the source material – the plot is as engaging and enjoyable as it is completely insane and over-the-top; the characters don’t conform to archetypes and turn out to be strong and likable in their own twisted way; and, perhaps most surprisingly, there is also a hint of heart to be found in the rubble. The relationship between troubled young man Eggsy (Taron Egerton, who shines in his first major lead role) and experienced gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth, who after this film should definitely seek more action-based roles) may not be explored as deeply as other plot developments, but the connection between these two unlikely allies is clear and both actors work well off one another to deliver something of a fun but honest rapport.

It’s mentioned that any Bond film is “as good as the villain”, and while Samuel L. Jackson’s Richmond Valentine isn’t even a stretchmark against the likes of Blofeld or Raoul Silva he’s still highly enjoyable to watch, mainly thanks to Jackson’s heavily animated turn as the phone conglomerate titan hell-bent on his devious scheme, revealed late in the movie. Much like Hart and Eggsy, Valentine shares something of a bond with Boutella’s Gazelle that suggests their relationship extends from the standard employer-employee mutuality; there’s definitely a spark between them, but it’s not made entirely clear what set it off in the first place.

Speaking of relationships with women, there is the addition of Sophie Cookson’s determined candidate Roxy, who is placed alongside Eggsy in a training program headed by Mark Strong’s amusing Q-esque Merlin (though his attempt at a Scottish accent can be a tad distracting). Though this may be the least interesting part of the film – though it’s not short on exhilarating sequences and set-pieces, such as a tense sky-dive minus a parachute – what is refreshing about it is that Eggsy and Roxy, against all odds, not only work well together instead of forming a predictable rivalry but also NOT get together by the end, as would be the standard in most filmic situations like this. It allows her to become the strong spy-in-training she had always wanted to be from the moment we first meet her, without the interference of a male love interest, which again bodes well for the defiance of both genre and gender conventions that this film is so eager to either homage or update for today’s more accepting society.

Heavy on action, character and barmy storytelling, Kingsman: The Secret Service is one hell of a fun time to be had for any lovers of spy movies or anyone tired of the po-faced seriousness of them today.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Kingsman: The Secret Service lovingly riffs on the Roger Moore era of Bond films, but doesn’t stop short of being its own thing with engaging action, good characters and a hilariously over-the-top story that Moore himself would be proud of. You don’t need to be covert to recognise how entertaining this movie can be…