With larger budgets and bigger special effects, the recent trend in Hollywood has been to create blockbusters that exceed the standard 90-minute runtime by as much as an extra hour. But as many moviegoers will agree, bigger doesn’t always mean better. That’s why I was delightfully surprised by Kingsman: The Secret Service.
The film delivers a funny story that entertained and engaged me for its full 129 minute run time. Kingsman impressed me with its great special effects, epic fight scenes and gallant British demeanor. The film moved at a consistent pace, interweaving multiple storylines, introducing a diverse cast of characters and initiating action sequences when things started to get dull. All of these elements made the movie fun and fast-paced.
Director Matthew Vaughn created an action-packed spy thriller that tells the story of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a young man whose difficult home life has put his military career on hold. Down on his luck, Eggsy’s life changes when meets the suave Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a dignified but jaded man who offers Eggsy a position in an elite British spy agency known as Kingsman. Training is supervised by Hart and the other Kingsmen, Merlin (Mark Strong) and Arthur (Michael Caine), at the agency’s headquarters in London.
The film combines all the best elements of classic spy movies. Eggsy transforms from an angsty victim of fate (similar to Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne) into an unstoppable and unapologetic gentleman spy of true James Bond style and bravado. Intense fight scenes and last-second saves give the movie the same suspense felt in Mission Impossible (1996).
While Eggsy competes with other talented protégés, an eccentric tech tycoon and environmentalist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) introduces a new surgically implanted SIM card. People all over the world turn out for their free installations, but it is soon revealed that the SIM cards house a brain-control function that causes people to go on killing sprees at his command.
Jackson’s villainy is reminiscent of Dr. Evil’s ridiculous plots from the Austin Powers trilogy; he even has an evil underground lair and a deadly sidekick (Sofia Boutella). But these throwbacks to the classics can’t cover up some of the cheesier parts of the movie — namely the painful amount of one-liners and bad puns that form the basis of conversations between Hart and Valentine.
The movie does acknowledge its own ridiculous nature, though. Some jokes are meant to poke fun at the movie, such as when Valentine reveals his plan to Hart and compares their situation to a Bond-style spy movie saying, “But this ain’t that kind of movie, brotha.” Humor like this helps balance the seriousness of the more dramatic and violent moments.
Spy movies are not the only inspiration for Kingsman, though. The story is riddled with references to other pop culture trends found in American media. Cashing in on the current zombie phenomena, scenes of violence are fast-paced with a high body count and all the guts and gore of films such as Dead Snow (2009) and Zombieland (2009).
The training sequences for the young recruits are similar to those found in recent blockbusters such as The Hunger Games (2012) and The Maze Runner (2014), which pit young adults against one another in life-threatening situations to determine a single winner. Idealization of British fashion and mannerisms in Kingsman is sure to appeal to fans of the popular BBC series Sherlock, a show that also idealizes British history and demeanor.
By combining pop culture references with an old-school style, Kingsman is a contemporary film that uses classic tricks to give it a compelling storyline. While the movie doesn’t boast the highest degree of originality, it still presents an entertaining story with humor. For a relatively new actor, Egerton gives a charming performance as the rough-around-the-edges Eggsy. His portrayal of Eggsy’s street-smart personality and fighting skills creates a perfect hero for the story.
Firth and Caine also brought their best selves to the screen, with Firth’s character Hart boasting a trim figure and tough moves at the age of 54. Jackson, on the other hand, didn’t seem to take his role as Valentine too seriously. His greatest piece of character development was the lisp he adopted for the role.
Overall the movie is fun and impressive. Kingsman delivered awesome special effects and action scenes without ignoring the more serious issues of losing loved ones and protecting people from harm. With the perfect combination of seasoned actors and new faces, the film strikes a balance between classic and contemporary that appeals to different audiences.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars