Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service
When I think about the latest superhero film from writer/director Matthew Vaughn, one thing that comes to mind in an odd sort of way is predictability. And the reason why I say that it comes to mind in an odd sort of way is not that the film follows an extremely stereotypical plot. Instead, it sets itself apart from several of the traditional spy movie tropes by pointing them out, and as soon as it does that it somehow becomes predictable in which ways it will then follow the spy movie trope as well as which ways it will subvert them. But what Matthew Vaughn is able to do is to craft a film that is still enjoyable regardless of whether or not you can tell what’s coming next. After Stardust, Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class, there are a lot of things that Vaughn knows how to do right, and they all seem to come together in Kingsman along wrapped in a James Bond style super spy wrapper.
Coming from someone who has only seen two James Bond films and very few other super spy movies, the spy tropes are still very familiar, as are the superhero origin stories. And this film very much plays out just like a superhero origin story, but instead of having his parents die in front of him Eggsy merely gets a mysterious medal with a phone number in honor of his father’s death. And as far as coincidences go, it just so happens that he finally calls that number many years in the future at exactly the right time where he can be recruited into this super secret British secret organization. Or technically, an independent organization based in the UK. Once he begins training, it’s pretty clear that he will make it through to the end. But once the film points out that it’s set out to break conventions it’s clear that he will not make it to the very end.
As for what the film is about, it’s essentially James Bond if he were recruited from the slums of England. There’s more to it than that, but it has all of the James Bond style elements to it. From the British setting, the high tech gadgets that look like normal formal attire accessories, the eccentric villain in the form of a lisping Samuel L. Jackson as the head of not-Google, the Asian henchwoman with a distinguishing weapon in the form of some deadly prosthetic legs, and the stuffy head of the organization in the form of Michael Caine. The recruit that we’re following, Eggsy, is the likable rascal who has a good heart but a bad upbringing. He’s the Agent Jay from Men in Black where we get to see him take flak from the other recruits, but he’s the one who thinks outside the box and cares about the other recruits as teammates rather than opponents. And Colin Firth does a great job at playing the veteran agent with a slight air of challenging authority and convention.
But aside from the plot conventions, one thing that Matthew Vaughn gets right is the style of this film. One of the most amazing scenes from a visual and technical standpoint is the fight at the not-Westboro Baptist Church when all hell breaks loose and becomes this visceral ballet of absolutely brutal violence. It is just stunning to see a full crowd of people going at each other with this single well-trained individual taking everyone out one by one, while still getting a few unlucky knocks in. Another one is closer to the end during the stereotypical “things are always darkest before the dawn” moments, but in a move that would never be done in any other film, they pull the trigger on a failsafe which literally explodes the heads of nearly everyone in the vicinity. But instead of playing out as a gruesome gore-fest, it’s done as this spectacularly ridiculous fireworks display which puts it just the right amount of over the top to be hilarious.
There is so much that can be said about how this film is crafted. The way it almost lovingly comments on the exact thing that it is almost a copy of, as Eggsy names his dog J.B. not after James Bond, or even Jason Bourne as Colin Firth guesses, but after Jack Bauer. Another way it plays on those conventions is when Firth exits the church battle and faces off against Jackson. The two of them quip about how if this were a James Bond movie, Jackson would tell Firth his entire plan before putting him in an elaborate deathtrap that Firth would then escape from at the last moment. He then caps that conversation off by shooting him in the head after saying that this isn’t one of those movies. It’s then revisited at the end of the film when he tells Eggsy that in those types of films it would be time for him to say his quippy one-liner, to which Eggsy repeats that same line which simultaneously denies the one-liner while also then becoming a one-liner. The one complaint against the film is that while there are hints and talk of what Eggsy is capable of, it seems a bit of a stretch that when we finally get to see him go into action, he is suddenly at the same skill level as any of the veteran Kingsmen. Aside from that and the plays on movie conventions, there’s also some subtle social commentary on the reliance of technology, the ignorance over global warming, and the political bureaucracy. Though that may be reaching a bit too far. It’s still an amazingly fun movie that packs some ultra-violent action scenes tempered with great comic relief, all the while challenging the conventions of movies like this. Really a great time at the theater. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.