When Kingsman and experienced spy Galahad (Colin Firth) has his life saved, he promises one favour to the family of the man who saved him. 17 years later, Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) finds himself in trouble with the law and desperate for a way out, and calls in the favour. Galahad sees something special in Eggsy, and decides to put him forward for training to be a Kingsman; the most elite and secret espionage agency in the world.
If I were to tell you that Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on a graphic on a graphic novel by Mark Millar, Written for the screen by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, and directed by Matthew Vaughn – the team behind Kick-Ass – you’d probably have a good idea of what to expect, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Colin Firth is making a nice turn in his career, playing bad guys and bad-asses, of which Galahad is the latter. Firth obviously enjoyed the mix of gentlemanly violence in Kingsman, and obviously has a ball playing the foul mouthed, capable yet caring Galahad. Taron Edgerton doesn’t have a whole lot to do, in terms of Eggsy’s character development – angry young man channels his energy into something spectacular – but he is good at what he does. Samuel L. Jackson, however, as megalomaniac Richmond Valentine, feels a little miscast as the lisping, weak stomached villain, coming off as a little insipid, and not nearly camp or colourful enough. The rest of the cast is made up of Michael Caine as Arthur, Sofia Boutella as Gazelle, Jack Davenport as Lancelot, Sophie Cookson as Roxy, Mark Strong as Merlin and Mark Hamill as Professor James Arnold, who actually manages a fairly decent English accent.
The story, based on Millar’s graphic novel, is a pastiche of the early James Bond films, which were filled with over the top villains and outrageous plots of world domination. There are plenty of nods to the world created by Ian Fleming, not least the fact that the spies are considered to be gentlemen, gadgets abound and the entrance to their HQ is through a bespoke tailor on Saville Row. The tale is one of training, acceptance and a madman’s plot, infused with Vaughn and Goldman’s trademark violence and the feeling that this could be our world, but a version we are unfamiliar with. Things fall apart slightly in the final act however, with mass murder and potentially distasteful sex acts referred to, seemingly without consequence.
As director, Vaughn makes the film engaging and interesting; the performances are fit for purpose, and discovering the world of the Kingsmen is a delight for audiences. The set pieces are sufficiently bloody and over the top, and often set to beloved music, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. There is a feeling of ridiculousness about the whole affair, but this serves the world of the film well.
In all, Kingsmen: The Secret Service, is a fun adventure through a familiar yet distinct world. The subplot of the villain tries to emulate early Bond tales, but enver quite works, and Samuel L. Jackson never truly settles into his role convincingly, but Firth, Caine, Edgerton and Strong are all on form, giving Kingsmen: The Secret Service a strong start, but an ultimately weak narrative finish. Still, this is sure to be addressed in the sequel…