Kingsman: The Secret Service

I started Proust’s The Guermantes Way a few months ago, still have some five hundred pages to go. So if I have two hours to spare, why do I not get back to it and make some headway, instead of going to the theatre to see Kingsman: The Secret Service on the first day of its screening?

For pure escape, of course. And then there’s the CF factor.

Yes, if the Colin Firth you have in mind is Mr. Darcy doing his graceful dive into the pond, you’re in for a big cognitive dissonance. Indeed, you can call this a paradigm shift for Colin Firth. He’s still a gentleman, mind you, dapper and poised, but he is one suave, choreographed fighting and killing machine, six month in the training, as he admitted in (real life) interviews.

British director Matthew Vaughn, who brought us Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011), had taken on adapting the Marvel comics created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) by mashing fantasy and realism into one big action-packed, stylish, fun and at times farcical British spy adventure. The production is like an homage to Ian Fleming’s James Bond and all those in the secret intelligence service MI6, from Q to M.

But to evoke an even deeper root, The Kingsman is Arthur (Michael Caine) and his knights, Galahad (Colin Firth), Lancelot (Jack Davenport), and the mastermind Merlin (Mark Strong). A pure fantasy. Behind the facade of a tailor shop in London is the  organization’s high tech base, and rightly so, for a gentleman’s suit is his armour, and the Kingsmen are the new knights.

Firth’s dapper presence is a prime model showing off the bespoke tailoring. What you see on screen you can also get, a collaboration of the film’s costume designer Arianne Phillips and the online retailer Mr. Porter. A Kingsman brand of wardrobe and accessories is the exclusive product spinoffs. Fantasy meets reality.


Not just a fashion statement though. What Galahad Harry Hart tells the young recruit Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who comes from a seedy part of London, records of petty crimes under his belt, raised by a single mother with an abusive boyfriend, all subsequent to the early death of his father, a former Kingsman: “Being a Kingsman has nothing to do with the circumstances of one’s birth; if you’re prepared to adapt and learn, you can transform.” After thinking a bit, Eggsy responds, “Like My Fair Lady.” If there’s any mindful lesson one can glean from watching this seemingly mindless entertainment, here it is.

Back to the task at hand. The dual plot lines are tightly woven as we see Eggsy going through a demanding training and screening process, at the same time Hart has to deal with the high tech villain cum philanthropist Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine sees mankind as a virus. He has developed the means to eradicate the pests, from a mind-controlling implant to a free-for-all SIM card through which he can activate, gleefully watching people kill off each other.

Comic book clarity, black and white, no shades of grey. While the plot may be formulaic, there are special effects and production designs that are fresh and captivating. I particularly like the tailor shop cum secret organization lair, with its underground passageways, and yes, the neat arrays of wardrobe accessories that are lethal weapons in disguise.

As an R-rated movie, some scenes are demanding of the viewers, and in the genre of action/adventure/comedy, graphic violence is prolific. The church scene may not sit well with some, albeit the explanation of the carnage is offered only after the very long and deadly sequence. Valentine is playing God to control their minds and impulses. Despite its flaws, which are easily covered by the quick change of scenes, overall it is a well-paced, well-acted, and stylish production.

Music is prominent in conveying the spectacle and thrills, as well as humour. I chuckle when I hear the British composer Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance accompanying one of the explosive, climatic sequence at the end, the extravaganza of human heads turned fireworks, a good reminder and celebration of where all the fantasy of the gentleman spy originates.

As with a genre of this kind, the movie is not for everyone. If you can’t stand the sight of blood, or graphic violence, or hear the F word prolifically uttered, or are reluctant to let farcical surrealism override a rational mind, then maybe you’d like to stay home and attack your TBR pile of reads. Don’t bother flipping through the comic book either. As the bookstore clerk warned me when I asked about it, “It’s very graphic.”

And yet, the two hours of pure escapism has proven to be invigorating. I’m just about ready to get back to Proust.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

17 thoughts on “Kingsman: The Secret Service”

  1. I’ve been waiting for this one but am on the fence — I don’t tend to handle violence well on the big screen. That said, it sounds tremendously fun in a shoot-em-up kind of way, and you know I have a penchant for CF eye candy! Looking good in those tailored suits, too! I’ll have to think about it. We can “talk” off blog about it!


    1. Jeanie,

      This might help you up your ‘graphic’ threshold. Definitely something very different from what you’ve perceived CF to be, and I’m glad he’s given a chance to show his versatility. 😉


  2. I am always so glad to read your reviews. I love Colin Firth but I’ll let this one pass me by. I wish I were better with violence but I am just so squeamish. Guess I’ll have to rewatch Pride and Prejudice one more time! 🙂


    1. Thanks litlove. Of course, reread your P & P and rewatch the BBC series. But I have a little suggestion. Watch the trailer and at least get a glimpse of what it’s like. I hope you’ll find it’s more fun than horror. And… I’ve a feeling that Mr. litlove and the younger litlove might enjoy it. 😉


  3. I can totally understand why you went to see this film rather than read Proust. I’ve been doing everything else but read Proust myself! It sounds like a fun film and a different sort of role for Firth. I will definitely have to see it sometime! Oh, btw, I forgot to tell you, husband and I watch Gone Girl recently, he had read the book I had not. We both liked it quite a lot.


    1. Stefanie,

      Here, explore this site. I’m sure you’ll find it very interesting, a good prep. before you see the film. Or, would you rather not know anything then see it for some spontaneous surprises, like Gone Girl. With Gone Girl, I’ve a feeling that you might have enjoyed it more than Bookman since he already knew the plot while you were caught unaware and maybe felt the effects more.


  4. Now that I’ve read your review, I’ve realized that I sat through the preview for this one when I went to see Paddington, and never felt a bit of an impulse to see it. There just was nothing that caught my attention. Of course, in the previews, I presume they focus on the “wham-bam!” aspects of the film — I remember watching with half an eye and thinking, “Oh, my. Those really are some special effects.”

    I generally like spy movies, but in the preview, this seemed more geared to the video-game afficionado. If I had a lot of spare time, I might see it. Or not.

    Another issue is that, with the news filled with such horrible events, I’m reluctant to take in more violence as entertainment. I have such a strong feeling that we’re on the edge of a very bad time, and our President and government seem not to comprehend what’s happening. At least, I hope they don’t comprehend it. If they do, and are choosing not to respond, we have even more to worry about.


    1. Oh Linda, I so agree. What the President, and our government, fail to see scares me to death. I have just finished a book on the Stalin regime, and I am not far stretched to imagine an Islamist regime treating us the same way: taking our freedom, causing people to live in fear and paranoia for any word to be misconstrued. It seems like no one is taking precautionary steps to keep America free!


    2. Linda,

      Since you have aptly linked the two together, this comic book adaptation and the reality of our world’s current situation, then I’m sure you realize power and might in terms of war (by definition, violent) is the necessary evil to stop further atrocities… just like the relatively recent chapter of WWII in our human history book. This article in The Atlantic has framed our current situation clearly. It is a gloomy scenario the author has painted, a long, world-wide warfare hopefully not till kingdom come. At least a comic book depiction is exactly the fantasy scenario most of us would like to see, or escape to: In a short 120 mins., the good guys triumph over the enemy aiming to control the world by annihilation. I’m afraid only in comic books do we find such ‘clean-cut victory’, no shades of grey. Exactly, no need to look into any shades of grey. 😉


  5. Does it seem incongruous to you that this London kid can reference My Fair Lady? Other than that, I do love the point: that we can better ourselves no matter what our background. And I’d cross the street to see Colin Firth play anything, anyone, any day. As for Guermantes Way, my iPod ran out of batteries months ago, before Christmas, actually, and I have yet to recharge it. Silly, lazy Bellezza.


    1. Exactly! You got it, Bellezza. That’s just one of the LOL moments. This coming from a foul-mouthed, street-smart thug. Just one example of the humor in this movie. I left a link to the movie website in my reply to Stefanie’s comment. You must check it out. You don’t need to cross the street. 🙂


  6. Firth playing a well-dressed debonair bad-ass GOOD guy? Sign me up. I just watched Shakespeare in Love and had forgotten that he was in that but he was mean. 😦 I do not like him when he isn’t one of the good guys.
    I just saw the trailer to Far From the Madding Crowdand must rush to read that book! Have you read?


    1. Care,

      Seeing dapper Colin Firth kick ass, you can’t get anything more exhilarating than that. He’s come a long way since the wet shirt episode.

      And yes, I finished Far From the Madding Crowd a couple of weeks ago, to prepare for the movie coming out in the next months. Don’t you find the trailer beautifully shot, and that’s Carey Mulligan’s singing. That is one of my most anticipated movies coming out this year. If you’re interested, here’s a list of some other upcoming Books to Films.


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