Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5 stars

Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn; Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egarton & Samuel L. Jackson.

The Vaughn/Goldman team has produced some of the more fascinating films of the past decade, including Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. And much like their previous collaboration on a Mark Millar book, Kick-Ass, Kingsman effectively lives inside the rules of the genre, but moves around inside those rules to explore them and poke a little fun at them (Kick-Ass with superheroes, Kingsman with spies). Bourne and Bauer created a new era of the spy film, but Kingsman takes those modern influences and applies them to the classic era Bond. All of which get shout-outs in the film.

Firth enters full action hero mode, which is unusual territory for him, but he excels at it like he made a wrong career turn somewhere. Granted that wrong turn led to him being one of the most celebrated dramatic actors of the past 20 years, so it’s not necessarily a “wrong” turn. But the climactic action sequence featuring Firth is such a beautifully choreographed piece of action, it should take its rightful place as among the best executed in modern film-making.

The supporting cast of Michael Caine, Jack Davenport and Mark Strong help build the world of classic hero vs. villain with a suave swagger and just a hint of cockiness. All that builds a wonderful foil for Jackson’s delightfully grandiose supervillain to play against. He has just as much fun in the role that everyone seems to have creating this world.

Egarton, a relative newcomer, perfectly handles himself against the who’s who he’s been cast against, and is ultimately the driver of the wink and nod to the genre. His Eggsy is recruited to the Kingsmen, and put through the ropes at James Bond Hogwarts (spy training school). It provides a fun answer to the question “Seriously, where do THEY get THAT training?” Egarton presents a new school approach to an old school character type, and creates a great, layered character in the process.

What I like most about Vaughn is that he closes out the film with a satisfactory ending, but definitely teases that there is more story to tell. It is exactly what we talk about “leave them wanting more.” I’m definitely hoping this can take off as a franchise.

I know it’s only February, and the competition isn’t very stiff, but Kingsman so far leads the pack as best film of the year (so far) and while I can’t speak to the quality of the rest of 2015’s releases, I’d imagine this will stick near the top of the list by the end of the year. Definitely don’t miss this film.

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