Let’s kick off these reviews with something fun! I am going to try my best to give a balanced review, but the desire to squee is strong. That is because today I’m going to be talking about Kingsman: The Secret Service, the recent spy film by Matthew Vaughn.
The first thing you need to know is that Kingsman isn’t your typical spy flick. Inspired by elements of Mark Millar’s comic The Secret Service, it goes boldly in a different direction that it’s genre generation. Recent spy movies are all “gritty” and “realistic”, which is good in its own way, but it can get a bit…well, boring. Not in the moment, mind you, but the overall experience doesn’t stand out as much. Most of what I love about Kingsman is that it takes a completely different approach. This movie knows what it is and it doesn’t try to be anything else.
So, what is this movie, then? It is a beautiful homage to how spy movies used to be. You know how they were, equal parts theatrical, ridiculous, and fabulous. Kingsman lives up to that legacy, never taking itself seriously and entertaining us through every single minute. The comic elements, especially the way key shots mimic the framing of comics, adds to campiness in a delightful way. The overall feel is strongly reminiscent of the old movies that inspired it, but uniquely fun and endearing. It’s a whole lot of fun in a 2 hour package.
I am not generally one to wax poetic about the performances of actors, but it bears mentioning that the actors did a great job of adding that little extra touch that helps sell the whole story. Colin Firth of course did a spectacular job of reminding us how gentlemanly a Gentleman Spy ought to be, while kicking some major ass (in a beautiful suit with an umbrella I would sell a kidney for…) in perfectly British fashion. Michael Caine anchored the movie’s setting with the all stodginess one would expect in a British aristocratic society. Samuel L. Jackson was fabulous, adding a lot of sympathy to a character without ever loosing focus on the fact that this man is absolutely psychotic. All of this was held together by Taron Egerton, a new comer to my sphere of the world, who managed to balance all of this action, intensity, and comedy with the fact that our hero is a 20-something young man living in a world that is neglecting his generation.
Now you may have noticed how all those names up there were men. That because I’m saving my favorites for last. The trailers don’t really let on how kick ass Sophie Cookson is as Roxy is during the movie, but she is awesome. They did cop out a little and try to humanize there character with a “quirky flaw”, but at least this time it’s fear of heights instead of clumsiness. In all other ways, I thought she did beautifully. She kicks ass, doesn’t even for a second try to be anyone’s love interest, and keeps up with the boys 100% of the way. Frankly, I wish the movie had been more about her and given her more time to develop, but the part she played was lovely.
The character I was really impressed with was Gazelle, played by Sophia Boutella. The trailers show her bouncing around like an angry ninja chinchilla, hacking through guys and generally being badass. But my favorite part isn’t that she is so terrifyingly cool. It’s that this woman, who has a clear disability, doesn’t bring it up once. She goes so far past not feeling sorry for herself, that it isn’t brought up at all, in any way. She is so bad ass that I questioned whether she overcame a disability or decided that having blades instead of feet would increase her lethality and just had them replaced voluntarily. She has transcended her limitations and become the murderous love child of a chinchilla and a Cuisinart. She is equal parts inspiring and horrifying, and I absolutely loved it.
Also, this little cutie has a special role, and that made me all kinds of happy.
Now, this isn’t to say that I felt Kingsman was without flaws. I was a little disappointed in the representation of people of color, because aside from one unnamed friend, the only two people of color were the main villains. Now, I can largely give the movie a pass, because it never feels like that really matters to those characters as people or their motivations as villains. I would still have liked it if a few more of the characters had been anything other than white, but that can’t be changed now.
I also would have liked if the sexual references had not been described quite so thoroughly and if Princess Tilde had kept her clothes on for the whole movie. These two things comprise maybe 30 seconds of the movie, but they fall at the very end. I was just a little disappointed that when the movie had been going along so innocently, everyone was allowed to stay dressed, suddenly some girl is naked and another thing is added to the list of Things I Can’t Unsee. It’s not a big issue, but it irked a little.
So my ratings overall:
Now, stop reading and go see this movie.