Sunday, May 10, 2015

Film Review - Kingsman: The Secret Service

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
This movie is best described as unexpected. This is true for several layers of it. On a global narrative level, it provides a plot about Eggsy, an ordinary yob from London, who one day gets drafted into Kingsman, a non-governmental, secret spy service. 

His mentor is Harry Hart, his complete opposite - he is a gentleman from a bygone era and an individual who is determined to get the job done, even if that means repaying a man who saved his life almost 20 years ago. While he tries to mold Eggsy into spy material,  Richmond Valentine, a hugely successful tech entrepreneur, dreams about saving the world in a way that seem to be leaving plenty of corpses in its wake. Soon enough, the Kingsman take notice.

Here, the regular elements of a fish-out-of-water and a tradition James Bond plot are mixed, but throughout the film, they are constantly reshuffled and dealt over and over again, which produces a really high level of engagement. The director of Kingsman: The Secret Service Matthew Vaughn guides the film as if he is influenced by both larger than life spy films and modern, edgy sitcoms (where things like fisting or anal sex jokes are not a big deal) which makes the plot development a process that just can’t be predicted. The comic elements of the film, especially their offbeat and adult nature, provide a lot of fun during the action scenes, but also when the action dies down.

But the thing about Kingsman: The Secret Service that really intrigues me is its embedded subversiveness. In it, heads of world leaders exploded in a beautiful, colorful explosions. The main villain works for humanity, even though his methods are horrific and he is exceedingly afraid of the sight of blood (and getting his hands bloody, all of which Samuel L. Jackson plays masterfully).

At one other moment, the same villain comments that the world does not even know the name of the Chinese secret spying agency, like it does with the USA or Russia, which is completely true in the real world as well - ask yourself what is the Chinese version of the CIA and what is it called? (a very weird but effective way of breaking the fourth wall).

Also, as Eggsy notices, he and other blue-collared individuals go into the Royal army so that they can act as cannon fodder for “posh bastards”. Here, the film makes quite a leap from the things that are expected from an action comedy and shows that super villains and the political elite actually have everything in common when it comes to ideology and global goals. The only difference is that politician in many countries (fortunately, in reality as well) simply can’t kill all those people they want to see dead.

While this idea is present, the film and Vaughn do not push it like some kind of an anarchist pamphlet. Continuing the great tradition of the British cinema, the subversiveness is not an element that is shown for a couple of minutes, when it gets its exposure and is then subsequently forgotten. Instead, it is interwoven in the very essence of the film, not as a clear motive that characters discus or are even aware of, but it is there constantly, blanketing the film like moss in a very ancient forest. It and other similar films that were made in the UK during the last half of the century are not created to tell us what to do, but to show us the hypocrisy and insanity of those who we elect to wield the biggest power over all of us. Think 22 Jump Street, but where the movie is not making fun of the contemporary pop culture, but is parodying the global decision makers and the horrific things which drive them deep down inside.

Creating a movie that combines these ideas with awesome and gruesome action scenes and jokes about a Scandinavian Princess who promises Eggsy to have anal sex with his (the finest moment of the entire Kingsman: Secret Service movie) is actually a very impressive feat.