2 February 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service review

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the latest film from the team that bought you both Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman once again loosely basing their new film on a series of comics written by Mark Millar. The film follow Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, a young and reckless council estate kid with a kind heart as he is recruited by a member of the secretive special forces group known as Kingsman, who operate out of a secret base that is accessible through the basement of a tailors.

A lot of people have been saying that Kingsman: The Secret Service feels like a Bond film, a statement that feels as if they weren't really watching the film at all. Despite the obvious comparisons between the members of Kingsman and the various Bonds over the years, and the various references and homages to Bond films made throughout the films running time, Kingsman: The Secret Service is very much it's own beast, disregarding both the story structure and tone of Bond films in favour of something more similar to Matthew Vaughn's other films. That isn't to say that you won't recognise a lot of common tropes in the Bond series in this film somewhere, but it's important to note that Kingsman: The Secret Service is neither a copy, parody or satire of Bond films.

The Kingsmen themselves are all named after the knights of the round table, and are almost solely composed of upper-class gentlemen. Eggsy's initial appearance amongst these elites causes quite the stir amongst both the current Kingsmen and the other trainees, and he begins to feel somewhat of a backlash against him caused solely by his upbringing. There is some small commentary about classism littered throughout, particularly in the villains actions and the segment of the film where we see Eggsy being trained, but it mostly falls by the wayside in order for the film to be what it so obviously wants to be - fun.

And it really is a ton of fun, Vaughn's playful and mischievous sense of direction present throughout, the tone never getting overly serious and the charming, almost slightly cheesy humour never disappearing for too long.
Newcomer Taron Egerton plays Eggsy with the right amount of heart to stop him from being a stereotype, while at the same time bringing enough charm and cocky swagger to the table to make him a viable Bond type character that, despite some of the more negative aspects of his personality, audiences can't help but root for. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this guys career from here on out - it's plain to see that he's a pretty good actor with a strong comedic bone.

But the stand out here is Colin Firth, who plays Harry Hart (or, to give him his Kingsman code name, Galahad), the Kingsman member who initially recruits Eggsy into their ranks. In a huge U-turn on the type of character he is known for playing, it turns out Colin Firth is actually a very entertaining action star, leading more than one fight scene in some fairly stunning choreography that is just as fun (although understandably less impressive) than some of the scenes last years The Raid: Berandal had to offer, and really coming into his own in the most memorable scene that the film has to offer - you'll know it when you see it.

My main concern with Kingsman: The Secret Service has nothing to do with the film itself, but what 20th Century Fox plan do with the property now. It's clear that there is a lot of "franchise potential" in the film thanks to the significant world building undertaken, but similar to Kick-Ass the story feels self contained and finished by the time the credits roll, so the last thing I want to see is a sequel, or, god forbid, a planned trilogy. Kick-Ass 2 managed to prove that not every good story needs a continuation, and I'm hoping the same mistake won't be made here - I want to see everyone involved move onto other things rather than retreading the same ground.

There are minor quibbles, of course - the female lead has nothing to do, it's probably a bit too long and, intentional or not, the film takes a very strange and conservative stance on global politics - but in general, Kingsman: The Secret Service is everything that fans of Vaughn could have hoped for. It's witty, slick, stylish, and just as light-hearted and playful as Vaughn's other films, large in scope but with some nicely tuned personal moments to keep things grounded when it all gets a little bit too silly. It's by no means the perfect film, but first and foremost, it's a film that only wants its audience to have fun - and in that regard, it's a big success.

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