Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

The spy genre has been dead as of late. Well, granted you still have the Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible series still kicking around, but they're all decidedly dark and gritty. When I think of spy movies I think of the older Bond films, the ones that revolved around a bad dude that wanted to nuke the world, and somehow convinced people in matching jumpsuits to work for him in his massive underground base. Those kinds of films were fun, and though I pretty much enjoy any kind of old or modern spy film, I think the genre has certainly lost a level of playfulness it once had to it. But this latest film tries to bring the genre back to its over-the-top roots. From gadgets, girls, guns, sharp suits and fine whiskey, Kingsman: The Secret Service has you covered.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Kingsman: The Secret Service, an excellent throwback to the fun spy films of yesteryear. I've been a fan of Vaughn's for quite awhile now, first kicking off with his adaptation of Neil Gainman's Stardust novel, then the fantastic Kick-Ass and also his reboot/prequel/whatever that was X-Men: First Class. He has a great knack for creating wonderful action films on -by Hollywood's standards- a shoestring budget. Kingsman continues this tradition and ultimately makes for one of the most surprisingly original action flicks in the past few years.

Kingsman opens up in 1997 in the Middle-East amid a number of English secret agents interrogating a terrorist. Clad in black tactical outfits and sporting masks the agents remain unknown, but after the terrorist pulls a grenade and one agent dives onto him to save his fellow comrades, one stunned agent pulls off his mask to reveal a very shocked looking Colin Firth. Firth plays Harry, part of a super secret group of spies known as Kingsman. They wear expensive looking suits, all talk in ultra posh accents and are incredibly well trained fighters, shooters and charmers. Back in 1997 and in the wake of his friends death, Harry pays a visit to his widow. Unable to even explain to her how her husband died (it's top secret after all) she tells him to leave. He leaves but not before he gives his friends young son, Eggsy, a bravery medal for his fathers service. He tells Eggsy that if he ever needs help, he simply needs to call the number on the back of the medal. The films then jumps to 2014 and Eggsy, now played by Taron Egerton, is living a shitty life with his mother and abusive stepfather. After being arrested  for joyriding, Eggsy decides to give the number on the medal a call, and this ultimately sends him off on his path to become a Kingsman.

The three best parts of Kingsman are its three leading roles. First off, Colin Firth is superb as the classy Kingsman Harry. He's a sort of father figure to Eggsy, and takes the troubled boy off the streets and offers him something noble to do with his life. However, beyond Harry's very respectful and cool exterior, he's also a real badass. Early on into the film Harry takes on a bunch of louts in a pub. From hurling beer glasses at their heads to using his trust umbrella gun to take a few out at once, he's a formidable force despite his posh appearance. Then you have Taron Egerton as Eggsy, who I really haven't seen in much yet. That said, he's absolutely superb in Kingsman and is a hugely likeable and watchable guy. His take on Eggsy is brilliant too, and as opposed to being the inner city mindless go-for-nothing that's morphed into a gentleman, he's plays an honest, genuine and good hearted guy in a bad situation. Becoming a Kingsman doesn't make the man in his case, but it does give him an outlet for his talents and good intentions. Then you have Samuel Jackson as Richmond Valentine, the baddie of the film, and one that can't stand blood and violence. Together this trio make Kingsman a superb watch and this, coupled alongside the brilliant script by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, really sets the film apart from most other action flicks of late.

The action is great too, and as just like he really hit it home in Kick-Ass, Vaughn's over-the-top direction is all over Kingsman. This becomes most apparent in the fight scenes, all of which are filmed with such a great sense of style and pace. From mounting a camera on the barrel of a pistol for a shot that's no longer than 2 seconds long, to rotating, flipping and hurling the camera around the place, the cinematography is anything but static and mundane. It's as fun and badass as the action is, and it makes for many truly refreshing action set pieces. The one that sticks out the most for me is the church scene, which essentially has Harry violently taking out an entire congregation of ring-wingers; a bunch clearly based on the Westboro Baptist Church. Whether they're men or women, Harry breaks arms, legs, backs, shoots them point blank and even plunges knives into them. This is all done without camera cuts or trickery- it's beautiful. Needless to say, in this film both the action and the violence is over-the-top, so much so that's it's not gratuitous or offensive.  Instead, watching Kingsman is like watching a very lovely, violent and well choreographed dance.

I know it wasn't made on a monumental budget, but I did have some misgivings about some of the CGI. It wasn't that most of it just really crappy, but some of it was just unnecessary. Thankfully the CGI never creeps into the action and fights, but when it is used it's incredible obvious and fake looking. Whenever it cut to a crappy green-screen moment or bad CGI model, it did manage to take me out of the film a bit. Beyond that though, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a super action flick, and one that isn't gritty, dark and bleak. Hurray!

Kingsman: The Secret Service has a license for fun. 4/5.


Denis Murphy

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