There are multiple points during Kingsman: The Secret Service where the film almost turns meta on itself as the characters banter on how this predicament (whatever it is) won’t end like “those spy movies that we love.” The idea of constantly playing off of the notion that this film is nothing like the more modern James Bond or Jason Bourne films is one of its charms.
It has the class and sensibilities of the Bond films starring Sean Connery or Roger Moore, but amps up the action to feel absurd and more like the other films that writer/director Matthew Vaughn has made. But what works so well for Kingsman is that it never strays too far from its roots: these classic Bond movies. While the outside of the film may seem like an ultra-violent, hyper-sexualized Matthew Vaughn film, it’s heart is still with Connery and Moore and those other Bond films.
Kingsman: The Secret Service follows Eggsy Urwin (Taron Egerton), a British teenager whose home life has been in shambles since the death of his father when he was younger that left a sort of question mark on his past. With his mother now dating an aimless British gangster, Eggsy decides to cause the man problems, which instead lands him in prison. His bail is paid by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), an old colleague of his dad who has a mysterious aura around him.
It turns out that Eggsy’s father and Harry worked together as Kingsman, a secret organization that is even more hidden than the CIA or MI6. The elite group of spies carry the code names of King Arthur and his knights with Arthur (Michael Caine) leading the group. With one of the spies down, an audition process opens for a new agent and Harry puts Eggsy up to the task, but the newest Kingsman must be found soon as the evil billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) looks to cause problems for the entire world.
The plot is spy movie 101, but Kingsman knows this. It falls under the umbrella of classic espionage that Vaughn clearly has such a passion for, and it works. The movie carries the traits of a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, but also separates itself through style and class that the other two franchises have ditched completely. Firth feels like he is auditioning for the role of Bond back when Pierce Brosnan took the role as he steals the scene every time he is on it.
Mark Strong appears as Merlin, and plays the quartermaster role as well as the trainer for the new recruits. It’s a change of pace for the usually brudding, villainous roles that he typically plays. But the real star of the film is Egerton, whose charisma and action star mentality makes him an instant star to look for. It is clear why his name has appeared on Spider-Man wishlists after watching Kingsman as the actor can play off anyone, whether it was Firth or Samuel L. Jackson, to both comedic and action conclusions.
Much like his previous films like Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class, Vaughn is able to bring his own style to a property. More like his latest effort (X-Men), it seems like Vaughn is working within the context of the spy genre, but infusing his own sensibilities to it such as his ultra-violent fight scenes set to a catchy tune (see Firth’s giant fight that kicks off the third act) and his often crude sense of humor.
The film doesn’t set a clear path for sequels or spin-offs and that was something refreshing from the current landscape of blockbusters, and while one could be on the way, it seems like Vaughn may have finally found the property that he wants to continue grooming.
Kingsman isn’t perfect, but it sure as hell knows what it wants to be and doesn’t stray from it. It is a film that never takes itself seriously, pumps the volume up to 110%, and allows you to ride along with the nostalgia and high-octane action that you would expect from a spy movie and a modern blockbuster. Count me in for more Kingsman movies as it seems like Vaughn has finally found his franchise.