Escapism. It’s such an important part of the movie-going experience. There’s a lot of reasons people venture to the cinemas to deal with large crowds, overpriced snacks and the sound of old people asking one another what just happened because they were too busy fishing in the bottom of their purse for a Werther’s Original hard candy. Ultimately, it all boils down to the need to escape.
This time of year we are plagued with ninnies telling us which films deserve to be gilded with precious awards and the importance of movies. For me, the most important thing is just getting to escape for a few hours into a (hopefully) well-crafted and interesting world. Whether that be the wacky world of a washed-up actor trying to stage a Broadway play, as seen in “Birdman,” or the bombastic, well-tailored world of cloak-and-dagger shenanigans in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a wonderful piece of escapism. It’s a movie that proves formulas can work when you put so much care and craft into the ingredients. The quickly established premise involves a group of modern-day knights, who serve queen and country. It’s the kind of gallant, impeccably dressed secret agents that seem like a throwback to a long-gone era: James Bond by way of Brooks Brothers. These high-tech agents keep the world safe from extinction-level events and exhibit the utmost discretion. The noble Galahad (Colin Firth) takes down bad guys without breaking a sweat or scuffing his finely polished Cole Haan’s. After losing a fellow kingsman in the line of duty, he makes a promise to his young son to help him out if he can. This ends up being a tall order as Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turns into a troubled youth in a fatherless home. He tries to be a stand-up guy, but he’s got a hot streak and a short fuse.
Galahad sees potential in young Eggsy and decides to recruit him for a new generation of Kingsman. It’s hardly the most innovative of plots. Everything is connected through convenience. Of course, the low-class Eggsy is taunted by his highly educated peers. Of course, he has a chip on his shoulder, and of course he’s going to fight through adversity to become the greatest secret agent in the world. The villain of the piece is an Internet billionaire who sees the possibilities of putting humanity to the ultimate test by turning them into violent killers to destroy the weak, only leaving the strong to lead the world.
“Kingsman” does a fantastic job of picking up the unapologetic, fun attitude of old Bond films before the series took a darker tone with the current incarnation. There was a void, and “Kingsman” fills it nicely. This is a fun, ridiculous spy escapade with high-tech gadgets and over-the-top villains.
Samuel Jackson gives an inspired performance as the least intimidating psychotic genius, who comes complete with a lisp and a wardrobe stolen from the One Direction tour. His henchman—er, henchwoman, henchperson—has two prosthetic legs with blades that can slice a man in two. Bullet-proof suits, X-ray umbrellas, SIM cards that turn people insane: This is what separates “Kingsman” from other far-too-serious franchises.
There’s an action sequence in the middle of the film that is mind-blowing and must be cited. Director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick Ass”) has shown moments of greatness but has created a lot of uneven movies. Films like “X-Men: First Class” and “Stardust” are fun but lack cohesion. “Kingsman” is the culmination of all his best ideas being perfectly executed. The action sequence in question sees a lone Kingsman fighting a church full of insane people trying to kill one another. It’s kinetic, crazy, beautifully choreographed, and it feels completely original. You feel every punch and cringe at every gunshot. Much like last year’s “The Raid 2,” “Kingsman” made me feel like there’s still new territory to travail in the action film. The church sequence isn’t just good; it’s worth the price of admission. It’s a sequence that should be appreciated, studied and enjoyed.
It’s hard not to like Colin Firth. He’s such a great presence onscreen, and to my surprise, a very believable suave action hero. Maybe he can have a later-in-life career like Liam Neeson and star in eight movies a year, playing a revenge-obsessed madman. Wait. Why would I wish that on anyone? “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a great piece of entertainment and a ridiculously fun time.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by Matthew Vaughn