The Kingsmen: Secret Service
Being the age that I am, I wasn’t around for the prime of the Bond era. I think I saw some of the Brosnan ones many years ago but I certainly wasn’t around for Moore or Connery. That said, I know enough about the series to spot a clear-cut homage to it when I see one.
Kingsmanis equal parts brilliant and absolutely insane. In classic Bond fashion, you have a maniacal megalomaniac attempting to destroy the world named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). How? I can’t tell you without spoiling a big chunk of the plot that they managed to keep wrapped up tight all throughout the marketing season for the film so I’ll let you discoveritinyourfold-out seat but be sure of this: it’s so ridiculous that it’s almost believable…almost…
Valentine is, however, our antagonist and we spend comparatively little time with him than we do our heroes, Eggsy (Taron Egerton, think his character’s name came from his own?) and Galahad (Colin Firth). Galahad is training new Kingsman 17 years prior in the middle east when one of his squad, who happens to be Eggsy’s dad, sacrifices himself to save his mates. As a young child, Eggsy receives a medal from Galahad with a number to call should he ever need a favor. Years later, he cashes in and Galahad sees potential in this young rebel. What follows is the embarkment on a treacherous training program to get young Eggsy up to par with the level of badassery a Kingsman is supposed to have in order to thwart Valentine and his atrocious lisp.
Is the film with its shortcomings? Yes…kinda? The pros of the film severely outweigh the cons. For example, until a major event happens 2/3 of the way through the film (not quite act 3 but more than halfway through) Eggsy’s development is slow, chugging along and keeping up with the film where it needs to. Once this particular event happens, it picks up quite a bit, but the fact that it took as long as it did is slightly troubling. On top of that, some characters go unaccounted for at the end of the film, like the writers just kinda forgot about them.
These are just about the only two critiques I have. The rest is positive. The dialogue is punchy, witty, clever, and so perfectly timed to create some absolutely hilarious moments. The fight scenes in the film are shot absolutely brilliantly and in a way I have not seen done before, at least not in this particular way. One scene in particular follows Galahad as he goes bananas on a church full of people. It’s shot over-the-shoulder and it alternates between real-time and sped up speeds. On top of the excellent fight choreography, the result is a visually brilliant and gripping set of scenes that get the adrenaline pumping. Of all my compliments to the film, none can be understated more than the writers’ abilities to create a film with no stock scenes in a classic genre where stock scenes run amok. What could have easily become stock scenes at many points subvert expectations by changing little things to push the audience in a different direction.
Vaughn’s direction deserves praise as well. Many of the shots of the film could have been stock as well but Vaughn choreographs his cameramen around the action rather than the other way around. One great example is a panning shot that keeps one character on the right side of the screen and moves them slowly to the left while on the phone. As soon as they hang up, they walk inside and we track alongside them. As soon as they’re inside, the camera stops moving and we wait for another character to come walking out. As soon as they hit the right side of the screen again, we break into a full track alongside them. This could have easily been done less interestingly but Vaughn pushes the visual aspect by pulling the audience’s eyes exactly where they need to go. It’s clear that this is a film that benefitted from a large amount of TLC and all-nighters from producers as they put together a brilliant film.