Matthew Vaughn’s films might not explore the human condition or ask profound philosophical questions, but damn it does he know how to make a fun movie. I don’t remember the last time I had such a good time in the theatre.
Vaughn has created something fun, funny, meaningful, reverential, referential and innovative all at the same time. It’s a love letter to classic spy movies as well as a kind of proto-superhero movie. An unconventional homage to convention.
The story, based on the graphic novel The Secret Service by Mark Millar and David Gibbons, follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton) a delinquent youth who is bailed out of prison by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a member of a sophisticated and high-class intelligence agency called the Kingsmen, to which he is later recruited. In part that’s thanks to an aggressively likeable protagonist – Egerton is a delight as Eggsy, standing among greats such as Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Samuel L Jackson with confidence and ease, bringing grace and depth to a character who could have very easily been grating in less talented hands. Playing off him is Colin Firth, who is predictably magnificent; he brings to the role his pitch-perfect comic timing and an innate sense of warmth and decency, to incredible effect. Watching his scenes with Egerton (as well as every other person he shares the screen with) as their relationship grows is an absolute joy.
The nuance seen in the two leads, however, does serve to show how ridiculous the film surrounding them is; the word “restraint” is clearly not in Vaughn’s filmmaking dictionary. Almost every aspect of the film – character, tone, theme – is conveyed with all the subtlety of a gorilla wielding a sledgehammer. Samuel L Jackson plays a charming, well-intentioned megalomaniac (a cross between Steve Jobs and…well, Samuel L Jackson) who hates blood and speaks with a lisp. His assistant is an attractive young woman with literal swords for feet. The Kingsmen dress well, drink martinis and fight with bulletproof umbrellas.
The action scenes are fast-paced, violent, excessively long and acerbically filmed; one fight literally has a slow-motion “both fighters jump and meet in the middle” moment. This stuff couldn’t be more overt if Vaughn tried. The thing is, I think he is trying. I think he’s throwing the over-the-top absurdity in your face, daring you to try and argue that the old Bond films you enjoy are any less ridiculous than this (Hint: they’re not). The result is a creative, hilarious and memorable thrill-ride.
Nicholas Porterbookmark me