Ashley Dominique is our special guest contributor this week, and just like the title of her WordPress suggests, she has some ponderings about Kingsman: The Secret Service. In particular, Ashley caught the flick ahead of release and she has some interesting things to say about Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn’s latest collab. So without further spotlight hogging…take it away, Ashley.
By Ashley Dominique (Guest Reviewer)
Release Date: February 13th, 2015
Dir. Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth (Harry Hall), Taron Egerton (Eggsy), Samuel L. Jackson (Valentine), Mark Strong (Merlin), Michael Caine (Arthur), Sofia Boutella (Gazelle), Jack Davenport (Lancelot), Sofie Cookson (Grace)
Kingsman: The Secret Service was initially scheduled to be released in November, but was pushed back to February and for the better. Now releasing on Feb 13th, against Fifty Shades of Grey, Kingsman offers the perfect counter programming. Spy movies are common in the current age, but they’ve become very dry affairs. Sure, they are filled with action, but they aren’t something that you’d show to someone to get them excited about the genre. Kingsman knows how to amp up the fun and make you enjoy a spy movie. Featuring characters that are interesting and a plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while still making perfect sense. The film walks a line between stylish and over the top without ever crossing the line that so easily be crossed.
Potential Spoilers Ahead!
Full disclosure: I saw this movie for free in an advance screening through Alamo Victory.
Going along with the film’s fun tone was a healthy dose of humor blanketed over the spy thriller. That said, it isn’t slapstick comedy. It is smarter and plays more into nerd culture and inside jokes. Those jokes were there for those who were in the know, but didn’t linger in such a way that would make someone who didn’t get it feel uncomfortable. Instead, it was so smartly written that it would just go over their heads. The comedy originates from word play and characters surprising other characters with their actions. There were numerous moments of visual humor that were well played and satisfying, particularly at the end. In order to enjoy it, you need to be able to accept and poke fun at the situations that arise. The fireworks display at the end of the film resulted in uproarious laughter in our theatre.
The film follows the main character Eggsy, a young man recruited for the Kingsman when his life was really hitting a wall. His father died in the process of becoming a Kingsman himself, as he was the prospect of Harry Hall, a Kingsman by the call name of Galahad. Now, Harry is trying to help Eggsy find more purpose in his life and recruits him for the new position of Lancelot. Taron Egerton, a relative newcomer, makes Eggsy the most lovable chav you will ever encounter. He thrives in his screen time and it’s hard not to find yourself growing warm to his antics and desire to be more. Watching his transformation to a better man is an enjoyable journey on it’s own. Then there is his mentor, Harry, portrayed by Colin Firth. I’ve had the utmost respect for Colin Firth for the longest time. He fully commits and comes to life as the perfect gentleman spy. He’s captivating to watch and when he’s on screen he commands your attention. He feels right at home in this action movie.
Between Eggsy and Harry, I would have been satisfied, but the film is also inhabited by a slew of characters who are beyond entertaining. Sure, some of them are not given as much depth as others. However, everyone had their role and shined in it. Whether it was Merlin or Valentine, everyone shined. Valentine’s lisp and subtle hostility was well played by Jackson. In fact, Jackson seemed to revel in this role and had all the fun he possibly could. Eggsy’s competition for the Lancelot position was a bit shallow but added life to the challenge. Merlin, essentially the test giver throughout the film, sprung to life in the final act of the film. I was also really glad that they focused on Eggsy’s competitor Grace without making her a love interest.
I mentioned the writing a little bit, but I need to commend the efforts made on this film. Not only were there jokes interspersed throughout but it also looked in on itself. It wasn’t overtly meta in the sense that it wished to break the fourth wall, however it was very self aware. There were numerous times where it called attention to itself as a film and what it was doing on screen. Surprisingly this ended up working very well as it fit both the story while also managing to talk directly to the audience. It was also done sparsely enough through the film that this meta feeling didn’t overwhelm the experience. Instead it managed to enhance it.
I’m a sucker for fluid action. There is nothing more appealing to my senses and excites me to giddiness more than a shot of nonstop action moving from one piece to the other. It only gets even better when the fight sequences are multi-layered with numerous fights going on and slightly overlapping. It’s fascinating and done well, making it appealing to the eye. Vaughn manages to make these fight sequences move and flow beautifully as time speeds up and slows down to highlight all the fighting. It was well executed and added lots of excitement to those scenes that also had a way to play down the violence a bit. Rather than being gruesome, it was fascinating. Honestly, It was the first time in quite a while that I felt legitimately wowed by the choreography and depiction of action on screen. Rather than gritty staccato movements it was fluid and graceful to the point that even as fights got vicious it looked beautiful.
The entire movie was presented with a flair of style. Maybe it was the inspiration from previously being a comic, but the entire film followed a very specific tone. Much like the action sequences, everything about the film was presented smoothly. You can tell how much thought and effort was put into the cinematography to make this highly stylized movie work. Everything just exuded a sense of grandeur, while keeping it grounded. It is a well executed vision that comes to life on screen.
As for the plot, I’m not going to pretend that it is a very deep. It isn’t. It does however follow the cardinal rule of story telling: it was interesting. The story followed some familiar beats, but it also veered off and took twists that made sense for the kind of story it was. Let’s be honest though, the plot was a bit outlandish, but it never turned unbelievable. Instead it was careful that on a whole it made sense and wasn’t just doing things for the sake of it looking cool on screen.
Ashley’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Arnolds
Kingsman: The Secret Service was the most fun I’ve had at a movie all year. Sure, it may still be early, but I’m fairly certain that come the end of the year it will still be a film that I think about and regard as something I enjoyed. Heck, I’m ready to pre-order the movie for home release already and I’m clamoring that it does well so we can see more adventures of the Kingsman. It isn’t the deepest movie out there, but it is one that is out to make its audience have fun and succeeds. I’ll be shouting from the rooftops for people to go see this one. I can’t wait to see it again.
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About Ashley Dominique: When you grow up loving and obsessing over magic and everything supernatural, it’s not a far fetched idea for a Science Fiction/ Fantasy writer to emerge. One Film Studies degree later and you can find Ashley furiously writing at any chance she can get. She is particularly fond of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and her flavor of the week. In what little free time she has, you’d probably find working on her novels, reviewing TV and movies, or playing video games.
You can read more of her reviews at soipondered.wordpress.com.