In the year of the franchise, where three films have already topped $40 million in the Australian box office (in 2014, not a single film achieved the same), it was refreshing to see a film come out of nowhere that was as daring and original as Kingsman: The Secret Service. While the title brought back some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen memories and may have caused some to be wary at first – something that can be typical of any new potential franchise anyway – strong word of mouth and healthy reviews helped buoy the film a successful run domestically and internationally. It wound up taking almost $20 million in Australia and $400 million around the world, setting up a legacy that will ensure the film endures cult status for years to come – as director Matthew Vaughn also achieved with his other graphic novel adaptation, Kick-Ass.
The film introduces us to the world of the “gentlemen spy”, a society of secret agents set up post WWI by a group of men who used the same tailor, and found little use for their money after losing their heirs to the war. So they put it to use for “the greater good”. “A suit is the modern gentleman’s armour. And the Kingsman agents are the new knights,” as is explained in the film. An interesting concept at its core, no doubt. Within the service, we meet Harry Hart or “Galahad” (Colin Firth), who is one of the agents tasked with nominating a new potential spy for training. He finds Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a “chav”, for lack of a better word, who is the son of an spy killed in duty years prior, saving Firth’s life in the process. He feels he owes a debt to Eggsy and his family, and this he repays by getting Eggsy out of trouble and introducing him to the Kingsman world. As he humorously points out in the film’s fantastic script – if nothing else, you’ll end up with a great suit.
As with any film, we need a villain, and for that, director Vaughn and his team have brought in the one and only Samuel L Jackson – who plays billionaire Richmond Valentine – part Knicks sideline Spike Lee, part Bill Gates. A man with many, many hats (pay attention, it’s enjoyable). He plays a villain who is supposed to take us back to some of the more eccentric baddies we’d meet in the old Bond films – a character trait Valentine seems to be going out of his way to personify, even saying as such in a series of scenes which takes the film into “meta” territory. In an essence, frustrated by the lack of change his philanthropic efforts have achieves, he decides the best approach is to wipe the majority of us off the planet, as we are the disease which is causing all of the problems. It’s an interesting concept that sees a villain seeming to take a “green” approach to murdering all humans.
The road we are led down is pure cinematic gold. From some of the finest fight scenes I’ve seen in the cinema in a long time (the scene with Firth in the church is particularly amazing) to the explosive finale, this is one of the best spy films to come out in years. It’s well crafted, never a parody and entertaining from start to finish.
With an unexpectedly huge box office taking, the pressure is now on for a follow up film. Vaughn has already expressed his interest in turning this into a series, but his track record for delivering on that is poor, and we know what happens when the studio steps in to move ahead without him (Kick-Ass 2 anyone?). Still, this film is a truly fantastic spy adventure without ever taking itself too seriously, in a way that heralds back to the Bond films of yesteryear. It looks fantastic and the casting is impeccable. Should there be a sequel, it’s a pity we won’t be seeing a few of the characters return. Vaughn and co have created an engrossing, fascinating new cinematic world, and for now I’m just pleased we’ve been able to enjoy what is without question one of the best films of the year. Popcorn cinema at its absolute finest.
Film Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
For a one disc Blu-Ray, the film comes chock full of features. From the original trailers to special photo galleries, the usual suspects are included. But the 90 minutes of documentaries are what makes this a disc worth buying. Truly insightful, you get the behind-the-scenes look at not just how they made the film, but why they made it. And why they made it the way they did.
They go in depth to the gadgets, the violence and the film as an adaptation. Something I didn’t realise was that Director Matthew Vaughn was directly involved in the original graphic novel, having the intent from word go to turn it into a film. This likely afforded him a lot of liberties that other Directors may not be granted from such an adaptation, and also potentially sets a new precedent for film making. Although maybe Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have already set the bar there. The only downside is that once again we are robbed of cast and crew commentary. I’m starting to see a trend here. A digital HD copy of the film is also included with your purchase.
Special Features Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Kingsman: The Secret Service is available digitally and on Blu-Ray and DVD now.