Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Film review #360
Director: Matthew Vaughn
SYNOPSIS: When Eggsy, a troubled young man ends up in trouble with the police and practically everyone else, he calls a number that was given to him when his Father died if he was ever in trouble. This leads to him being released and meeting Harry Hart, a seemingly refined and upper-class gentleman. However, it turns out Harry is part of a secret agency called the Kingsman, which Eggsy’s Father was also a part of, which fights crime and preserves world peace. Harry chooses Eggsy as a candidate to join the Kingsman, but he must undergo a series of trials to prove he is worthy, and meanwhile a rich tycoon is plotting a global catastrophe that the agency must try to stop before it is too late…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2014 spy film about a secret service that independently preserves world peace. The film starts off (after a brief introduction scene set twenty years prior) introducing Eggsy, a young man who has had a troubled upbringing, having lost his Father at a young age and his Mother being in a relationship with a local mobster. Eggsy gets into trouble after stealing a car and ramming it into a police car to allow his friends to escape. When at the police station, he uses his one phone call to call a number on the back of a medal awarded to his Father when he died, which allowed him “one favour”. Eggsy walks out of the police station and is approached by Harry Hart, who got him released, and Eggsy learns that he is part of a secret service, like his Father, which helps to preserve world peace. Following the death of one of their agents, Harry nominates Eggsy as a candidate to replace him, and he begins his training to become a spy and a gentleman. The plot follows a recognisable story of an outcast who is taken into the high life and brings his own unique character into situations where it is not normally encountered, and where people discriminate against him for it. It is a story that has been told many times in cinematic history, and honestly is one that needs to be re-told: a similar story from the eighties featuring a young person in the same role is not going to have the same impact as Eggsy, as both face different problems respective to the times in which they grow up. There are a lot of similarities too, of course, but the key lies in the lead being relatable, and facing distinct, recognisable obstacles for them to overcome. With this in mind, Kingsman executes this story for the time it was made very well, and makes Eggsy a unique character that is a product of his time, and identifiable with the target audience. Sure, because of this the plot is a little predictable, but being a spy film it still finds a way to throw in enough twists, double-crosses, and surprises to make it gripping and entertaining. This is also important because as part of the comedy/spoof style of the film, it requires the viewer to be familiar with the tropes in order to play with and subvert them.
Another of Kingsman’s strengths is in it’s casting. Featuring a host of recognisable British actors gives the characters a certain powerful aura, which contrasts nicely to the relatively unknown Eggsy. Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Hamil round off the cast to give it an even wider recognisable appeal. The characters themselves fit neatly into their specific roles, again in keeping with the plot and the type of story it is telling, so there’s few surprises, but the performances make these characters come to life, and are full of personality. However, there are some surprises too, with the main villain Richmond Valentine (played by Jackson) being a entrepreneur billionaire with a lisp who dresses like Eggsy and who also cannot stand the sight of blood. Sometimes the film plays it straight as a spy film, while at other times it asserts itself more as a comedy or spoof of spy films, and there’s a lot of oscillation between the two that makes the tone of the film feel a little uneven at times. For example, the more comedic moments don’t go well with the gory violence present throughout, and trying to both play the film as a straight spy film and a comedic spoof of one, while also adding in the gory parts creates a confused tone that is never really resolved.
Another positive for the film lies in the action sequences, which, as mentioned, are often hyperviolent and gory, but are fast, fluid and undeniably entertaining, and that’s where the film’s biggest strength lies: it sometimes crosses genres which ends up leaving the film feeling a little muddled in terms of its detail, but it certainly is not boring. Even when the film is going through the motions regarding Eggsy’s incorporation into the unfamiliar world of the Kingsman, there’s enough work being done to set up the characters and setting to make it unique. Overall, while the film suffers from some inconsistency and a sometimes unclear sense of what it wants to be, it is a well executed, entertaining adventure that adds enough fresh content to a familiar story to make it relevant and appealing.