by Jeff Walls
There are those out there who feel that the James Bond franchise has gotten a little too serious, that 007 has forgotten himself in his pursuit to be more like Jason Bourne. Fortunately, for those who feel that way, director Matthew Vaughn is on your side. The director of hits like X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass now brings you Kingsman: The Secret Service, a clear tribute to the earlier Bond films, most notably those of the Roger Moore era. There are gentleman spies, maniacal villains, deadly henchman, and lots and lots of gadgets. The result is a movie that is crazy fun from start to finish.
The Kingsman is an organization of gentleman spies that has been protecting the world from evil villains for decades without the world knowing a thing about it. Following the death of one of their own, they set about to recruit his replacement. Enter Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks whose late father was once recruited by the organization, but died saving the life of his mentor. Operating under the code name Galahad, the mentor now looks to recruit Eggsy to become the newest member of the organization. But first, Eggsy must survive the brutal interview process.
Meanwhile, a power-hungry business mogul named Valentine is unleashing a plot that could destroy over half of the world’s population. He is recruiting the world’s most powerful leaders into his plot and if they won’t be recruited willingly, he kidnaps them and keeps them in his underground lair. He has also just released a product to the rest of the world that will allow them unlimited free cell phone service for the rest of their lives. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Galahad sets out on a mission to stop Valentine, but he is going to need Eggsy’s help.
Unlike last week’s Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman: The Secret Service refuses to take itself too seriously and it is all the better for it. Perhaps nowhere does the movie take itself less serious than in the various gadgets available for use by its heroes. There are cigarette lighter grenades, poison-filled pens, bulletproof umbrellas, and shoes with daggers hidden in the toes. Q would love it.
The comparisons to Bond do not end with the gadgets. The film’s villain played by Samuel L. Jackson fits the mold of the pre-Daniel Craig bond villain: an impossibly rich businessman bent on world domination. His henchman is an acrobatic woman with prosthetic legs built out of deadly knives that she uses to slice her victims into pieces. She is every bit the descendant of henchmen like Oddjob and Jaws.
Even though this movie is certainly a take on the many spy movies director Vaughn grew up enjoying, the plot still manages to surprise. The entire movie builds to the dramatic confrontation between the hero and the villain that we would expect, but it takes some unexpected turns on the way there.
The story is anchored by some crazy action sequences that go further and further over the top as the movie progresses. The craziest comes about halfway through the movie when Colin Firth’s Galahad must take out an angry mob of about seventy people all by himself. The body count continues to grow in this extended action scene that was amazingly all filmed in one long take. It is an impressive sequence of staging, stunt work, and special effects.
In a cinematic landscape where even the superhero movies are leaning more toward serious than fun, it is nice to see an action movie not be ashamed to be goofy and entertaining. Kingsman: The Secret Service is sure to delight those who are longing for the spy movies and television shows that existed long before the genre became flooded with stern faces, shaky camerawork, and “realism.”
Kingsman: The Secret Service opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16 and AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? Eat local before you go!