Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Jack Davenport, Mark Hamill
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Matthew Vaughn remains one of the most promising new directors of the last ten years. He hasn’t directed a bad film yet, and his films keep getting better. For example, Kick-Ass led to X-Men: First Class, which has led to Kingsman: The Secret Service. And God’s honest truth, it was so good, it made me believe it might actually be in my Top 10 at the end of the year. If not, then we had a pretty great year, and I’m OK with that outcome as well.
Yes, I loved Kingsman. I thought it was a clever twist on both the spy genre, and the comic book genre. It’s not James Bond, and it’s not X-Men. It’s very much a different animal altogether. It even, at times, could be considered a parody of the Bond universe, but it does it so well that no one would associate it with being a parody. Not really, anyway. Just what ARE the Kingsman? Well, in this world, The Kingsman are elite spies, an underground association of gentlemen who protect the world and no one knows they exist. They take the names of the Knights Of The Round Table, with Galahad (Firth) being a main focus. Really, the star is Eggsy (Egerton), a misspent youth whose dad once tried to become a Kingsman, but died in the process. Eggsy is offered the chance to follow in his fathers footsteps, and he takes it. This launches him into a training process where his street smarts put him up against a lot of highly-educated silver-spoon-fed types, for the one spot at the round table. Adding a sense of urgency is Valentine (Jackson), a villain who believes that the earth is dying because humans are a virus, and there are too many of us, so he would like to find a way to purge humanity of itself. He’s also a tech guru, so no one suspects him. It’s a little like if Mark Zuckerberg went crazy, but no one suspected him of wrongdoing.
Kingsman is literally a ton of fun. It’s hilarious at times, always smart, and occasionally able to keep you guessing. A few twists I didn’t see coming actually made me like the film more. Taron Egerton, who I had no idea who he was before this, is really capable as a leading man. Colin Firth, who has never really needed to do action before, is capable as an action star. But the real success here is Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine, because no one else could have played Valentine the way Jackson does. He’s perfection. It’s an over the top performance that can only work in an over the top film. The kind of film that can make fun of Westboro and Obama (and other world leaders), while still hosting some incredibly violent action sequences. Lots of heads explode. LOTS of exploding heads, and dismembering. This film could never have been PG-13. It’s over the top action and it is super fun as a result. It all leads to the best quote of the year from a female prisoner, and I won’t ruin it for you. It’s pretty great though.
Kingsman is the first must-see film of 2015. We’ve reached that point in February, which is a good sign for how the rest of the year might play out. Either that, or we blew our load early and its all downhill from here. If Vaughn was directing 2015, however, I’d say the best is yet to come.
FINAL GRADE: A