Theatrical Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Anglophile
Everyone has an origin story. Whether noble or obscure, each of us has had humble beginnings in some small town, some modest occupation, before becoming someone, or something else.
In the same sense that director Matthew Vaughn and graphic novelist Mark Millar made teenage superheroes relevant again with the film and book Kick-Ass, they have done so again by looking at the rise of a street kid into a refined secret agent in the modern spy adventure Kingsman The Secret Service.
The result is a mixture of James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer with a dash of Cody Banks, all rolled into one.
While the film has several elements usually indicative of a typical Bond film (colorful rich villain, exotic locales, gadgets, etc…), Kingsman veers more towards an origin story than a full blown spy story.
Newcomer Taron Egerton plays teenage boy Eggsy Unwin, a gifted but disillusioned guy whose father used to belong to a secret organization known as the Kingsmen, spies who save the world from looming threats without public knowledge.
Fashioned in structure like the ancient Round Table of King Arthur’s Court, each agent is assigned a given moniker and is tasked with a dangerous mission, all while impeccably dressed and well-mannered to a tee.
Galahad (Colin Firth) seeks out the young Eggsy to serve as his mentor, soon offering him a chance to join the Kingsmen ranks by undergoing rigorous testing. Training moves fairly quickly as a villainous billionaire philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a lispy eccentric internet guru, has plans to cull the human population to give Earth a chance to heal itself from the modern world’s damage.
With time running out and the world hanging in the balance, it’s up to the young teen to hone his skills, use his wits and agility in order to stop the bad guy, assist his teammates and save the world. No pressure.
If you give the film careful consideration, you’ll soon realize that it feels and sounds closer to the 1960s The Avengers than anything else, except perhaps for the more obvious Bond elements thrown in, namely a prosthetically enhanced henchwoman named Gazelle (razor sharp legs and all) as well as a big baddie with billions to spare and a secret mountain base.
Colin Firth is very much a John Steed for modern times as Harry “Galahad” Hart, a gentleman’s gentleman with excellent taste, manners and deadly skills to match. Firth’s fighting skill in this film is quite a sight, his speed and agility evocative of Matt Damon’s amnesiac assassin, with moves that defy the human eye.
He is accompanied by other members of the Kingsmen like tech wiz Merlin (Mark Strong), leader Arthur (Michael Caine) and previous members whose fate starts the movie off.
Samuel L. Jackson once again steals every scene he’s in, an almost childish power monger whose limited patience in seeing results makes him unstable and petty, though not to be so easily dismissed given his dastardly invention which I won’t mention here for the sake of keeping some goodies secret for you readers.
Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson do their best as Eggsy and Roxy, two of the recruits, though they easily get eclipsed by their shinier co-stars, something neither of them can get blamed for. I’m sure in time, both of them will have had a chance to improve their craft to match that of their peers.
Director Matthew Vaughn, no stranger to extremely well choreographed action films, knocks this one out of the park with great kinetic scenes, impressive set pieces and a pace that will keep you riveted to your seat in anticipation and envy. After all, who doesn’t want to own and use spy gadgets?
Kingsman will definitely scratch that spy film itch you’ve had since Skyfall, a more accessible movie than its Bond cousins and definitely classier. Think of it as trying something new. Who knows, you might even like it!
3.5 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.