In Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

by Daniel Goodwin on 02/02/2015


In the 1960s and 70s, secret agents of the silver screen were elusive figures of supreme sophistication and wily debonair. After the success of the Bond series, facets of Fleming’s super-spy formed the basis of numerous film and TV franchises, contributing to a heightened public perception of what a government agent should be. The cool and calculative Harry Palmer combined with the camp attributes of James Coburn’s Derek Flint, Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King and numerous other TV incarnations such as The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Saint and The Persuaders, all became pop cultural icons, epitomising the cartoon-like, super-spy amalgam of which many others were later based. Director Matt Vaughn’s latest, Kingsman: The Secret Service, embraces many of the aesthetics associated with the 60s kitsch spy flick.

Protagonist Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is the delinquent teenage son of a deceased war veteran. Hounded by the law and rival youths, Eggsy lives under constant threat from his thuggish stepfather. But when Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a former protégé of Eggsy’s late father, enters his life, things start to change for the better. Harry offers Eggsy the chance to enrol in a trainee programme for government agents. In the hope of escaping his world of drudgery and to learn more about his late father’s legacy, Eggsy signs up.

The garish colours, bawdy characters, crude yet colourful references to pop culture yet combines brash, urbane attributes with crass comedy, tabloid sensationalism and social commentary, injecting new life into the spy comedy subgenre. Even though Kingsman at times feels like a distant cousin of Johnny English, it is a different beast entirely. The story is a social realist/ comic book hybrid, blending spy buffoonery with working class caricatures hurled into extraordinary situations. Colin Firth is perfect as the quintessential agent alongside Michael Caine as prudish Kingsman head Arthur and Taron Egerton as Eggsy.

On paper Kingsman may seem like a Ken Loach directed kitchen sink spy drama but it’s presented in the guise of a high concept (Harry Potter meets 007) action comedy laced with elements of urban realism yet has more in common with the Pierce Brosnan Bonds than the Daniel Craig series so far, due to its exuberant nature. Fired by a juvenile vibrancy and an energy lacking from most modern blockbusters, Kingsman is extremely enjoyable due to its tight plotting but boasts a few glaring flaws. Some shabby dialogue, inane, occasionally grating humour and weak, overly outlandish supporting characters slightly hinder the whole along with the bombardment of product placement and gene stereotypes. The story set up slightly struggles to find its footing but glides into an exceptionally well-paced middle before building into a fitting crescendo and exhilarating finale.

Director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman adorn Kingsman: The Secret Service with the bawdy humour of Kick Ass and the might of Marvel along with suggestive, seditious undertones (notice how the word “shit” is uttered as a certain, frowned upon product glides into shot). Far from the pumped up Johnny English it first appears to be, Kingsman: The Secret Service marks a surprisingly thrilling return of the debonair super-spy thought to be well buried by lampooning cultural counterparts and faded fashion trends.

Daniel has awarded Kingsman: The Secret Service four Torches of Truth 

four torches

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