Matthew Vaughn has shown an ability to handle the fine line of directing comic book films, embracing their uniqueness while grounding them in the reality of the world they exist in.
His latest effort is Kingsman, based on the comic series The Secret Service by Mark Millar and David Gibbons. The film heavily embraces its cinematic progenitors in a wonderfully over the top action film set in a world where the conceits of super spy and super villain are accepted and paid homage to.
Eggsy(Taron Egerton), a young man not quite comfortable in the confines society have placed on him, plainly indicative in the unease he seems to be in his street clothes which never seem to reflect who he really is, is recruited to a secret service hogwarts by Galahad (Colin Firth).
The Kingsmen, embracing their English culture, as only the best gentlemen super spies can be British, obviously, have taken their names from the noble legends of King Arthur. Overseen by Arthur (Michael Caine) and trained and outfitted by Merlin (Mark Strong), these agents never make the front page, but have kept the world safe for decades.
That is all menaced by Valentine (a lispy Samuel L. Jackson) with a unique (in that Fleming way) aide de camp!bodyguard, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). As a tech minded philanthropist he has a plan for the world, recruiting aid from the world over including Professor Arnold played by Mark Hamill.
While Eggsy and fellow recruits, including Roxy (Sophie Cookson) face test after test with their adopted puppies at their side, Galahad investigates and is exposed to Valentines’s vicious but inspired plan – demonstrated in a fantastic and bloody sequence in a southern church (can you say Westboro Baptist?).
Eggsy and company must save the day.
Halfway through the film I realized how caught up I was in everything, as bloody and over the top as it was, I was completely taken in and entertained, speaking well of Vaughn, his cast and the story.
There are a number of brilliant sequences, the aforementioned church, the skydiving, the entire last act of the film… It doesn’t let up, and there are constant nods to super spy forefathers.
Firth, usually cast in those quieter, romantic comedic and dramatic roles, brings a sense of gravitas to his character while still being able to let loose and be the action star that always seemed to lurk within him.
Jackson chew scenery with great enjoyment and by surrounding the younger cast with names like himself, Caine, Firth and Strong it gives the film a further pedigree, raising it above the typical popcorn action movie tripe (as illustrated by the completely forgetful trailers which preceded it).
The film never loses its sense of fun and Vaughn had been able to walk that fine line of story, action, high and low brow humour and never lose the thread of each.
While very much in the vein of the spy films that came before it, this one pushes it further, the violence and blood (not to mention language) are incredibly over the top but seem right at home in this super spy outfit for the 21st century.
A winner through and through.