Since it was first announced, I’ve been highly anticipating Kingsman. Matthew Vaughn is one of my favourite directors working today and the last time he and writer Jane Goldman worked with a Mark Millar comic we got Kick-Ass, which is one of my favourite films. So does the magic strike twice, honestly I don’t think so, but that’s not to say this film isn’t a lot of fun, it certainly is that.
The plot concerns Eggsy, a member of the lower classes who is offered the chance to join the secret agency of Kingsman, a Bond-esque collection of the upper class who foil plots to try and destroy the world. At the same time that Eggsy is being trained, there’s a plot by billionaire Richmond Valentine involving the kidnapping of major figures, the main aims of which are unclear at first but have something to do with climate change. As the film goes on Eggsy, under the guidance of Harry Hart the person who discovered him and got him to join Kingsman, get more involved in trying to stop Valentine’s plans. One of the main elements of the film that works is how it represents class. Throughout the film, Eggsy is constantly belittled by other members of Kingsman because of his class, with the people doing this belittling presented as the bad guys. The film shows that the lower classes are just as capable of being the greats as the upper classes but the upper classes drag them down. This also extends to parts of Valentine’s plot, which I won’t spoil here. Another thing the film does really well is subvert and at the same time honour the tropes present in the classic spy films. Throughout the film these tropes are mocked but the film also revels in them, especially at the end of the film. This does get a bit problematic in the final scene regarding how the film chooses to portray the Bond girl aspect and if this scene was altered or cut then the film would have been a lot better.
The main aspect that causes the film to work is the cast. Taron Egerton was a great find as Eggsy. Throughout the film we see that Eggsy is a really intelligent and caring person who’s held down by the class barriers in place. He works really well in the action scenes and he has a great deal of charisma that serves the character well. Just as good as Egerton is Colin Firth. It’s a lot of fun to see Firth doing all the action scenes, with a lot of praise going to Firth and the stunt team for making this work. The charisma that Firth has is perfect to play Harry Hart and the way he and Egerton play off each other is excellent. As Valentine, Samuel L Jackson is clearly having a lot of fun, the lisp making for great contrast with the very refined style of talking of Firth and the running joke of him being incredibly squemish regarding blood being a really funny part of the character. This is a villain who serves McDonalds to Hart as a formal meal and it works for this character. His motivations as well make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things, which is something that makes him such a compelling villain. Just as compelling is Sofia Boutella as Gazelle, Valentine’s right hand woman who uses prosthetic legs with swords built into them as her weapon of choice. These are some of the best film weapons to come along in a long time and Boutella has great presence throughout the film, you always see her as a threat and, whilst it would have been great to see a disabled actor play the part, Matthew Vaughn released a statement on The Last Leg stating that he did audition disabled actors for the part but none were willing to accept it. There’s also good work done by Michael Caine, who adds a lot of gravitas to the character Arthur, the head of Kingsman, Mark Hamill who gives a lot of character in his brief appearance as Professor James Arnold and Mark Strong whose deadpan style works for the character, despite the quite dodgy Scottish accent. If there is a weak link in the characters it’s Roxy. Whilst Sophie Cookson does a great job, the character isn’t really written that well, although it is great that see and Eggsy don’t end up as a couple by the end.
On the technical side, the action scenes are incredibly well directed by Vaughn. He has a clear sense of scene geography and the way he shoots the scenes with cinematographer George Richmond is excellent. A particular highlight is an action scene in a church which is fast, violent frenetic action. The whole design of everything related to Kingsman is excellent as well. The tailored suits give the film a great sense of class, all of the gadgets fit the Bond aesthetic, with Hart’s umbrella being a great tribute to The Avengers (the TV series) as well. The way the film incorporates music is excellent as well, particularly a scene near the end which had me in fits of laughter.
Overall, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a lot of fun, whilst also being a really relevant and biting look at the class system in the UK. The performances, particularly Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Samuel L Jackson are a lot of fun, Matthew Vaughn directs the action scenes really well and the script by Vaughn and Goldman has a lot of great lines and had me laughing throughout. Whilst there are a few problematic elements regarding the ending, it doesn’t take away how much fun I had watching this film.
My Rating: 4/5