Movie: Kingsman The Secret Service
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Production Companies: Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, TSG Entertainment
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Producers: Matthew Vaughn, David Reid, Adam Bohling
Scriptwriters: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Main Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella
Release Date: 29th January 2015 (UK)
Running Time: 129 minutes
With a long anticipated prequel coming out next month, what better time to revisit the sleeper hit of 2015? For context, most people, including myself, didn’t have high expectations for this film. But clearly what do I know? Kingsman: The Secret Service grossed $414.4 million at the box office. What did this lead to? A mediocre sequel and the aforementioned prequel: The King’s Man. If anything this film shows just how good Matthew Vaughn is as a director. It also continues the trend of great spy films in the 2010s. Anyway, without further ado here is my Kingsman: The Secret Service review.
Kingsman: The Secret Service starts in the Middle East in 1987 with Lee Unwin and Harry Hart on a mission. Lee sacrifices himself for Harry. Harry blames himself for Lee’s death. Harry then returns to London to give his widow and son, Michelle and Eggsy, an emergency assistance number.
17 years later, we see Eggsy as a stereotypical chav living with his mother, baby sister and abusive stepfather, Dean. We find out Eggsy dropped out of Royal Marines training despite being very talented and intelligent in gymnastics and parkour. When Eggsy steals a car, he rings the number on the back of the necklace. Harry then arranges his release and explains who the Kingsman are. An elite group of special operatives that operate at the highest level of discretion. Harry takes Eggsy to the Kingsman Tailor Shop. He reveals his codename, Galahad, and that a new agent, Lancelot, is being recruited. This is because the previous Lancelot was killed on a mission trying to rescue Professor James Arnold. Harry chooses Eggsy to become his candidate.
Meanwhile, Merlin, Kingsman’s technical support operative discovers Professor James Arnold working as if he wasn’t kidnapped. Harry goes to investigate but a microchip detonates in Arnold’s head killing him before Harry can get any information. Merlin tracks the detonation signal back to eccentric billionaire, Richmond Valentine. Harry, posing as a wealthy philanthropist, goes to meet Valentine. Valentine plans to give away free SIM cards to the world. Soon, the Kingsman tests leave just Eggsy and Roxy, his only competition for ‘Lancelot’. The final test involves Eggsy being asked to shoot a dog he adopted. This is in order to prove he is ready for Kingsman. He can’t do it and thus Roxy assumes the position of ‘Lancelot’. To be clear, the gun was loaded with blanks so he wouldn’t have killed the dog.
Meanwhile, Harry finds out about an obscure connection between Valentine and a hate group church in Kentucky. When Harry arrives, everything seems normal until Valentine activates the SIM cards in the church. This causes mass violence in the congregation. Eggsy and Merlin see Harry’s violent state through a video transceiver in Harry’s glasses. Due to his spy training, Harry is the only person to survive. That is until he is shot outside the church by Valentine. After this, Eggsy returns to the Kingsman HQ and notices a scar on Chester King’s neck, the head of Kingsman. The scar is similar to Professor Arnold’s one. King reveals Valentine plans to cull most of the human population. Why? To avert climate change. King also reveals only the chosen few will survive.
King attempts to poison Eggsy but he switches the glasses, killing King. Along with Roxy (Lancelot) and Merlin, Eggsy goes to stop Valentine in his mountain lair. Masquerading as King, Eggsy infiltrates Valentine’s base before an ex Kingsman trainee, Charlie Hesketh, discovers him. This leads to Merlin and Eggsy being cornered. Eggsy asks Merlin to activate the SIM card’s failsafe, killing almost everyone with a chip. However, Valentine activates the signal causing worldwide violence. Eggsy then kills Gazelle, Valentine’s henchman, before using her prosthetic leg to kill Valentine, saving the world in the process. After this, Eggsy has a romantic encounter with a Swedish princess, Tilde, who Valentine abducted. The final mid credit scene sees Eggsy knock out his stepfather. He does this in the same way Harry took out a criminal earlier in the film.
To continue my Kingsman: The Secret Service review, I’m going to start with the score. This is composed by Henry Jackson. Vaughn has previously worked with Jackson on X-Men: First Class and both scores share similarities. For example, the first bar scene of Harry beating up Dean’s friends. This is a perfect example of the music escalating tension. The slow crescendo builds audience anticipation until Harry turns to lock the pub doors. The sharpness of the music immediately demands audience attention before the score resumes when Dean’s friends throw the first punch. Jackson’s score here feels very similar to the bar scene from First Class. Why? Both scenes use music to escalate tension and feelings of apprehension in the viewer.
Another great point related to Kingsman: The Secret Service’s music is that church scene. Unless you watched the film in Indonesia or Latin America, this scene will have left a massive impact on you. The piece de resistance of this scene is the use of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. Vaughn crescendos the song when Valentine increases the signal’s frequency. However, it also creates a very ironic feel to the scene. Despite the song being Free Bird, no one in the church is free from the frequency of the SIM cards. Side note about this scene, someone did an edit of really happy music over this scene and it’s brilliant.
Cinematography in the Church
First, the cinematography is beautiful with the camera tracking Harry as he murders half of the church’s congregation. The only time when the camera changes? When it cuts away to Merlin and Eggsy to highlight their reactions to the violence. Otherwise, the camera movement is fluid as the violence gets more over the top. I mean bashing someone’s throat in with a Bible?
To conclude this section of my Kingsman: The Secret Service review, it’s time to talk the elephant in the room. What is that? The obvious Bond parodies. I’m also going to mention the film occasionally subverting them. First, the whole idea of the world’s heroes being upper class British spies. This is about as unsubtle as Bond parodies get. The next obvious parody is the over the top nature of the gadgets. Multiple purpose umbrella guns and poison dagger Oxford shoes anyone? This mocks the Brosnan era of Bond films which use even sillier gadgets. (Insert joke about underwater cars here). The Bond parodies continue with the villain’s plan being over complicated and requiring too much to go correctly.
But, beneath all the Bond jokes is a narrative about class and privilege. This subverts the audience expectation of the upper class British super spy. An example of this is the first pub fight scene. Despite Harry laying out what Kingsman are, Eggsy doesn’t initially want to join. This is due to his mum having lost his father in war. This leads to a terrific line from Eggsy. He points out how the lower classes often end up dying to protect those above them in the film. This scene uses two shots which shows the beginning of Harry and Eggsy’s relationship in the film.
To conclude my Kingsman: The Secret Service review, this film is 2 hours of wacky, hyper violent spy missions with a stellar cast. It not only manages to parody Bond but also serves as the first film in Hollywood’s next big spy franchise. I’ve linked Kingsman: The Secret Service’s IMDB page if you want to learn more. So to finish this review, always remember: Manners Maketh Man.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent
Target Audience: 15+
Content: Strong Violence, Bad Language, Mild Sexual References