-->Colin Firth Taron Egerton Samuel L. Jackson Sofia Boutella Michael Caine Mark Strong Sophie Cookson
Kingsman has just about everything: Entertainment, intrigue, clever script, humorous references, constant surprises—and it’s just fun. AND it has a female being one of the heroes! It certainly lives up to previous successful works (Layer Cake, X-Men First Class) of the director, Matthew Vaughn, and co-writer, Jane Goldman. The plot zips along so intelligently with all kinds of intricacies, yet is easy to follow without being facile. Similarly, the fights and gun battles are fierce, yet come across as fine choreography. Cinematographer George Richmond enhances these scenes with artful camera work.
In addition to being a spy thriller based on the comic book stories of Mark Miler and David Gibbons (“The Secret Service”), the film gets in pointed social commentary about the environment, social class, compassion, cooperation, and violence, that takes for granted the audience will comprehend, mixing it in with both serious and humorous dialog. The crux of the story is that a private secret service has emerged that aims to be better than those run within a government. Its agents have tended to come from the upper classes, but one agent, Harry Hart (Firth)—and yes, he has a very big and tender heart—has decided that it would be wise to recruit someone intelligent with street smarts. That would be Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (get it? a “loser” played by Egerton), who is getting into a heap of trouble at home and on the streets and is headed for prison.
Eggsy and his fellow trainee, the graceful but tough Roxy (Cookson), are put through their paces in a grueling program that is full of tricks. Out of the class of nine, only one will be selected to become an agent in the service. Meanwhile, there is a dastardly plan dreamed up by the billionaire villain Valentine (ironic) that the way to solve environmental meltdown is to reduce the population of the world. With the help of his tech-savvy assistant Gazella (Bouella), he has a doomsday plan that involves getting people to kill one another. The Kingsmen become aware of this, and are committed to sabotaging it. There are plenty of nail-biting moments in the story when it is touch and go.
I loved Colin Firth—always the gentleman from the upper classes—in the role of a James Bond-type of agent. It was a complete surprise to see him (at least his double) kicking a--. Of course, always elegantly. As his mentee who has an interesting back-story with him, Eggsy ends up recapitulating the master’s truths and actions. Cookson gives a performance that exemplifies the naturalness and human traits (nurturance, competitiveness, intelligence) demanded by the role. I also loved Jackson’s portrayal of a villain with a lisp (clever note) who sounds like a bro, but has nefarious plans with his loyal, ferocious assistant Gazella (Boutella).
Beyond all this, Kingsman brings up a knotty issue about whether secret services are best administered by the government or private companies. Kingsman gives us a look at how private companies can be good or bad. The clincher is that neither of the two in the film has any oversight as would a government agency. Food for thought.
If you want exciting, intelligent filmmaking that’s also fun, go see Kingsman!
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland