Kingsman: The Secret Service is a fine example of a spy movie done right. As multiple characters within the film blithely point out, the movie is an homage to classic spy movies; it’s delightfully campy and bold. Kingsman is intentionally setting itself apart from grim modern takes. e.g. Skyfall. It’s not aiming for a sense of realism, but instead excitement, grandeur, and style. On all these counts, the movie is very successful.
The protagonist “Eggsy” Unwin (played by Taron Egerton) is a likable, dynamic hero, backed by the phenomenal Colin Firth. Firth plays Harry Hart, a member of the secret society known as “The Kingsman.” Egerton and Firth establish a polished repartee and are backed by an incredibly strong cast including Mark Strong, Michael Caine, and Samuel L Jackson. Jackson especially is notable for delivering a very different brand of character than his usual hat. While Jackson’s Valentine is a formidable villain in his own right, he is defined by his strong aversion to blood and striking lisp. Jackson manages to strike a balance between intimidating and humorous. Gazelle, the right hand to Valentine is no less iconic. Played by actress and dancer, Sofia Boutella, the character is no less than deadly. Her weapons are two prosthetic legs fitted with blades. And the action sequences featuring Boutella are truly stellar.
The action is generally top notch. It’s campy and overtop in the style of Matthew Vaughn’s previous comic outing, “Kick Ass.” There’s also something irreverently reminiscent of Tarantino-esque Action, but with an even more stylized aesthetic (if that’s possible). The camera follows the motion of blows, flying bodies, and impressive acrobatics. The gunplay is very much in line with this style, always taking place in close quarters and featuring a great deal of implausible agility.
The narrative itself is rather agile. It keeps going at a relentless pace and never falls into a lull. For a most part, this works incredibly well, though a few skips in time prove slightly jarring.
In terms of failings, the film does not have fantastic representation for non-male characters. While Boutella’s Gazelle is impressively deadly, the only female protagonist, Roxy is often relegated to secondary actions and is most defined by her fears rather than her accomplishments. The only other prominent female characters, Eggsy’s mother and the Swedish Princess Tilde are similarly shortchanged.
That being said, the film succeeds in being a critique of socio-economic classes. It also delivers a sleek, polished spy movie reminiscent of the more classic pillars of the genre. It’s hopelessly irreverent and bold, but still one I’d very much recommend if you want a good action movie.