What’s the Story: Following the recent death of one of their men, Agent Harry “Galahad” Hart (Colin Firth) has recruited a young man by the name of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) to join a secret service in London called the Kingsman. What is it? A private intelligence of British agents who are gentlemen and have skills that can subvert expectations. Seeing how he’s the son of a former Kingsman who died while on a mission, Eggsy has the potential to be the next “Lancelot” along with other candidates in this competition. All the while, tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is plotting a global treat with his deadly assistant Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) to take care of global warming through a worldwide killing spree.
As an adaptation of the comic book series created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, I remembered being a tad skeptical and excited simultaneously. It probably wasn’t until the second trailer that gave me confidence despite not doing the overall film justice. But why wouldn’t I be since this came from Matthew Vaughn? He already established himself as one of my favorite directors after the back-to-back hits of Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011). It was fascinating that he wouldn’t be doing another X-Men entry or Star Wars to do a spy movie instead. This was their chance for everyone involved to make one hell of an entertaining action movie that serves as a love letter to the classic genre. And did it succeed? Absolutely because Kingsman: The Secret Service was the first great film of 2015.
Despite never even hearing about the comics when this was first announced from Fox, it’s impossible to not see Vaughn be the man to put together the perfect homage to the old school days of James Bond, which also mixing in a bit of the original Men in Black for good taste. But it was about time someone like him would understandably bring the energetic style to full effect. This is a high-octane mixture of action and comedy that’s really slick to get around. Vaughn’s direction and screenplay, co-written with Jane Goldman, were able to take things that seem so gentlemanly while having clever dialogue around the action and characters that were actually interesting to follow to the end. And you can clearly tell his love for these movies are apparent with the unique gadgets, missions, and class in the ballsy, R-rated way. Plus, watching this makes me want to wear a nice suit because why not? Eggsy always gets in trouble with the law, and becoming Kingsman material could be a slight redemption for him.
Walking into Kingsman, I really didn’t know what to expect when I heard Colin Firth would lead in an action role. You’re telling me the handsome guy (yes) who won an Oscar for playing King George VI will be bought as a secretly cool agent? That seemed questionable. But boy does Firth surprise me by how much he kicks ass as Harry Hart. Since I was little, he’s been one of my favorite actors, so it was cool seeing him ruling these action-quality moments as it looked like he did almost all his own stunts. When he was right around his 50s while filming, I think it’s easy to say it defied all expectations. And the kid talking him under his wing is Taron Egerton as Eggsy. The future Golden Globe winner wasn’t a name everybody heard of, including me. As the main protagonist with heart and skills, this was a proper breakout performance for him. However, those flaws are bound to stay with him were able to still care about Eggsy with his ample opportunity to prove himself worthy.
And with the elements of a spy movie, there needs to be a great villain in Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine, who wants to take over the world with these SIM cards that can control people into a violent rage. I thought his lisp threw me off since that’s a strange character trait that’s not heard of for a Bond-type baddie (a characteristic Jackson thought of since he used to stutter as a kid). But I love how over-the-top he was in his scenes to consider him memorable. Along with him is Sofia Boutella as his henchwoman Gazelle with prosthetic legs that’ll slice and kill you, which tells me I shouldn’t mess with someone with blades for legs. This also has Mark Strong as Merlin, Sir Michael Caine as Arthur, Sofia Cookson as Roxy, and a nice, brief appearance from Mark Hamill, and I didn’t know he was in this until a week it came out.
The most refreshing aspect about watching this is that the action sequences never disappoint. As most directors forget how to make them exciting and un-nauseating, Vaughn delivers them with his stylish expertise that’s fast-paced and skillfully choreographed that even when it ends, you just want more, and it doesn’t take itself seriously. Thankfully, there weren’t any signs of awful camera work. One of the ballsiest sequences in the entire film was the colossal Church fight that honestly made my jaw drop when I saw it in theaters and still does now, all set flawlessly to the sound of “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd that’s totally insane. Probably the craziest action scene I’ve ever seen that hasn’t left my brain. Everything about these is over-the-top and bloody, especially with an evil plan like this, but it’s all fun in the end, right. Fun Fact: In the comics, it was a wedding instead of a Church killing spree. In addition to the candidates’ training scenes or anything else, I couldn’t get enough of Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson’s incredible score throughout.
There are very few problems I had with this. Besides the pace laggings during a few spots when the action’s not needed, this needed some development over a couple of characters that weren’t explored enough. And it does have an awkward joke (?) before the credits hit that I wasn’t expecting. At least that adds to the fact this wasn’t all that predictable. Finally, though it did pretty well at the box office ($128.3 million), I have to question those who saw Fifty Shades of Grey instead of an actually good film that’s fun? Just a shame.
Bottom line, Kingsman: The Secret Service serves as Matthew Vaughn’s love letter to the spy genre in the most excellent way. Keeping things mildly self-aware with the bonus of class to put it inside, everything from the fast-paced action to the performances of both Colin Firth and Taron Egerton makes it all worth it.