‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ has its cake and eats it too

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photo via comingsoon.net under the Creative Commons license

20th Century Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service

Alec Badalian, Film/Staff Writer

Over the years, the spy genre has become exceedingly serious. There used to be a time where in James Bond films the villain was killed by being inflated to the point of explosion. Now, in both the new era of Bond and in spy movies in general the tone is dark. While this doesn’t necessarily make these films bad, it does suck them dry of any real fun. Kingsman: The Secret Service is for people who miss the classic, irreverent verve that spy movies once had, and it’s by far the best spy movie of the decade.

Set for release on Feb. 13, the film is an adaptation of the Mark Millar and David Gibbons graphic novel and directed by the marvelous Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class). It’s about the journey of a young British street kid, Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton), and his rise from the slums of South London to the high-class, top secret International Intelligence Agency known as Kingsman.

He’s taken under the wing of veteran agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who’s been living under the shame of allowing Eggsy’s father to die on a mission. As Eggsy participates in the vigorous Kingsman boot camp, lunatic billionaire/environmentalist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) plans to cleanse the world through brutal methods, thrusting the organization into action to stop his diabolical scheme.

What’s so fantastic about Kingsman is it’s ability to never stop having fun with its material. Even when the plot approaches dramatic territory, it still never loses its sense of pure cinematic fun. It manages to incorporate the gritty action one would expect from say a modern Mission Impossible film with the goofy, comedic undertones of something similar to the classic James Bond films. But what it does so brilliantly with its comedy is that it treats it mockingly and teases how silly these old spy movies were, while also being a silly spy movie itself.

Even when the plot approaches dramatic territory, it still never loses its sense of pure cinematic fun”

— Alec Badalian

Every performance feels inspired, energetic and shows what a ball each actor must have had with their roles. Firth pulls of the dignified, classy gentleman swagger and the rough secret agent physicality, as does newcomer Taron Egerton, who’s sure to be face that’ll pop up in other films after his charming breakthrough performance. Jackson is also terrific here, chewing up every scene he’s in with his eccentric wardrobe and amusing lisp. Mark Strong and Michael Caine round out the supporting cast, and even with their limited screen-time, it is clear they relish their roles just as much.

Major points also go to Matthew Vaughn, who still hasn’t made a bad movie yet, and his incredibly refreshing style. The way he stages and shoots action scenes is unlike any other filmmaker and injects exhilarating levels of intensity, most notably in a scene in a church which is simply astounding.

Vaughn and frequent screenwriting collaborator Jane Goldman construct yet another pitch-perfect script full of witty humor and clever twists. The soundtrack is also top-notch and mesmerizes as much as the amazing visuals.

Though the new year has just begun, Kingsman has already set the bar extremely high as one of the year’s most entertaining films. It’s a love letter to the ‘60s/’70s era of James Bond, a gloriously crafted modern action movie, a splendidly executed comedy, and above all, an undoubtedly fun time.