Movie Review : Kingsman - The Secret Service (2014)
The twenty-first century hasn't been kind to the classic, romanced vision of secret agents we once had. The cool, collected, gadget-oriented superheroes who could kill a man with a paper clip and make a bomb out of milk and pop rocks. They have become undeniably less credible than the hard-nosed, selfless and broken heroes that play an unwinnable game in series like Homeland or The Americans, unlesssss.... unless they throw any relationship to our geopolitical reality out the window right off the bat.
Kingsman : The Secret Service was based on a comic book, so it doesn't have much use for geopolitics. Is it worth investing your time into? I'll give it a tentative yes, it goes through the motions of what a classic spy movie should be except for one extra thing...
But what is Kingsman : The Secret Service about, except Colin Firth wearing extremely well-tailored suits and making arrogant remarks? Well, it's a little bit contrived, but in a nutshell it's about the Kingsman agency recruiting the son of one of their former members (Taron Egerton) in order to replaced a newly deceased agent, while a Silicon Valley entrepreneur type with an annoying speech impediment (played by Samuel L. Jackson, believe it or not), is trying to take over the world using a philantropic project as an excuse to control people's minds. I know this sounds like an episode of Infowars, but I promise you it's more interesting than that.
Kingsman : The Secret Service is more interesting than your run-of-the-mill classic spy movie because its central conflict opposes more than just the Kingsman Agency and Richmond Valentine. It's a clash of values. The old, conservative institution that emphasizes skill and manners is fighting the brash, nouveau riche empire that worships wealth and intellect for the faith of the world. Not only the philosophical underpinnings of this conflict are interesting, but it's also flipping the script on us : the conservative institution are the good guys, here and the said "progressives" are conniving criminals looking to enslave and destroy people under false promises of technological revolutions.
Now, fuck me if this isn't new.
I know what you're going to tell me: Ben, isn't it kind of reactionary to make a movie about an agent of change being evil? Theoretically, I'd agree with you on that. But Kingsman : The Secret Service is just colorful and over-the-top enough to get away with it and make you consider the possibility of change (especially technological revolution) not being at our advantage. Richmond Valentine offers a SIM card to everyone on Earth, providing free calls and free internet to people. Only problem is that is controls their mind. I mean, you gotta love a movie making this sort of point in a world where Edward Snowden sacrificed himself to prove that the government can access your phone content, only to have Apple unroll facial scanning technology to great acclaim a couple years later.
I hope Snowden felt vindicated when he saw this movie.
Kingsman : The Secret Service is a lot about young, dapper men in suits using clever weaponry to fight off evil, too. It's like a British XxX : The Return of Xander Cage that doesn't take itself seriously : kick some ass, get the girl and try to look dope while you do it. It's light-hearted, pulp-y and surfing the line between classic spy thrillers and self-aware storytelling. I can't say that I'm a fan of Colin Firth in any way, but Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and particularly Sofia Boutella were nice casting choices, for they don't look like your conventional sandpapered Hollywood stars. Don't be a dummy in 2018, watch movies that go the extra mile and offer more than just explosions, like Kingsman : The Secret Service.