From Britain with Love, by Rudie Obias
Director Matthew Vaughn has a keen talent for turning movie genres on their head. From his first film, Layer Cake, Vaughn took on the crime genre, while his follow-up Stardust, focused in on the fantasy genre. He examined the comic book genre twice with the small film Kick-Ass and the big blockbuster X-Men: First Class. In his new film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn writes a love letter to the British spy genre.
Kingsman: The Secret Service opens with secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth, trying to escape enemy lines in the Middle East. After his partner and good friend dies during the mission, Hart is tasked with the duty to inform his dead partner’s wife and young son that her husband and his father died, but doesn’t divulge the circumstances of his untimely death to his family. He simply gives them a medal for bravery and tells them if they need anything in the future to call a special phone number and recite the numbers on the back of the medal. The movie then jumps forward twenty years and follows “Eggsy,” played by Taron Egerton, Harry’s old partner’s son and the newest recruit for the secret spy organization Kingsman.
The film is simply a blast! Kingsman: The Secret Service not only places Matthew Vaughn as one of the best directors working in the action genre today, but also marks the best film he’s ever made. It’s really the only one of his films that balances story, character, and action without feeling like one of those elements are falling behind.
The movie works in two parts, watching Eggsy going through a grueling training to be a secret agent and seeing how he puts those skills to the test to bring down the film’s lisping villain, Valentine, a multi-billionaire who plans to kill off 99% of the world’s population to cleanse it for the upper 1%. In that way, Kingsman: The Secret Service has something that most action films or studio movies don’t have, which is a political and social point-of-view. Kingsman works as a political satire as well, albeit in small doses.
But at its core, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a British spy movie, while it also pays tribute to the genre as a whole. All the staples of the genre are there: well-dressed gentleman spy, check; maniacal villain hell bent on world domination, check; quirky, but deadly henchwoman, check; beautiful one-dimensional women, check, check. While Kingsman: The Secret Service is a barrel full of fun and fluid action, it’s mostly a boy’s club where women can participate, but not take too much of the glory.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen this year and it seems that it will continue to be until the summer blockbuster season starts. It’s full of tributes and references to a lot of spy movies but particularly James Bond movies from the Roger Moore era, namely The Spy Who Loved Me. The movie is also the perfect example of how a just-turn-off-your-brain action movie can also be smart and witty as well.