Kingsman: The Secret Service – Review

With the exception of Layer Cake, Matthew Vaughn’s best films have come when writing alongside Jane Goldman. The frequent collaborators have a knack for bringing fresh ideas to well-worn genres. They did it for fantasy with Stardust, superheroes with Kick Ass then X-Men: First Class and now for the spy thriller genre with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Kingsman itself is a secret organisation of Bond-type gentleman spies which operates beyond governments and bureaucracies to fight the lair-dwelling villains of the world. Kingsman also sees Vaughn working closely with Mark Millar (author of ‘The Secret Service’, the graphic novel on which the film is based) for the first time since Kick Ass, another adaptation of a Millar graphic novel.

After an opening scene which plays as an homage to Bond films of old, along with some gentle mockery of the classic clichés, the action cuts to a London estate; introducing Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a talented but troubled teen with little hope of escaping his abusive step dad and nothing to do but cause trouble. The first act remains relatively grounded in the nihilism of the modern lower class youth, before jumping headlong into the fantasy of the gentleman spy thriller with the entrance of Galahad (Colin Firth), a character from Eggsy’s father’s mysterious past. The madness is ushered in by a slick fight scene in a pub, and Kingsman only gets more bonkers from there.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a hefty chunk of the film is occupied by Eggsy’s training. Fortunately it’s well executed. The trainees are put in real danger at every opportunity and the cartoonishly posh Charlie, Digby and Rufus provide some light-hearted antagonism while the larger threat looms in the background. The training is also punctuated by Galahad’s investigation into the nefarious plot of Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a lisping technology billionaire with a phobia of violence and a dastardly world ending plan.

The scenes between Firth and Jackson are excellent, with Firth on fine form as the archetypal gentleman spy, and Jackson in a role which is very different to his usual tough guy persona. Meanwhile Egerton makes a great debut as Eggsy, following the transformation from rude boy to Kingsman with plenty of heart and some great comedic timing.

The biggest star of the film, however, is Matthew Vaughn’s now signature style direction, which stands out particularly in a couple of scenes. The first is a perfectly choreographed fight scene in a church, directed with sweeping style. The second is an explosive montage at the climax of the film which is funny, gruesome and strangely beautiful in equal measure. Kingsman finishes with a bang, and a very risqué homage to Roger Moore era Bond climaxes, a finale which sums up the whole film succinctly. Toeing the line between parody and homage, with a sense of humour that stops just short of offense, Kingsman is a hugely entertaining film and a welcome fresh take on a classic genre.

In it
Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
Behind it
Matthew Vaughn

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