Pinstripe suits and gadgets rule in this suave callback to classic spy movies
By Sarah Sisk
Move over, James Bond. “Kingsman,” a spy action and comedy film that premiered on Feb. 13, is here to reintroduce modern viewers to the world of the gentleman spy. The movie is based on “The Secret Service” comic series, a work that seeks to reanimate the spirit of the British spy thriller classics.
Taron Egerton stars as the young Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Eggsy is a child when his father, a member of the Kingsman Secret Service, sacrifices his life to save a fellow Kingsman, Harry Hart. Hart, played by “The King’s Speech” actor Colin Firth, returns years later to return the favor by becoming Eggsy’s mentor.
Eggsy has grown up to be an uncultured and directionless young man, and he is initially suspicious of Hart’s well-groomed exterior. “Manners maketh man,” a suited, bespectacled, umbrella-clutching Hart lectures as he turns his back on a gang that threatens him in a pub. But his suit is bulletproof, his glasses are equipped with technological vision enhancement and his old-fashioned umbrella is actually a shield and stun gun combined. He whirls around and executes swift, beautiful justice on the delinquents with a combination of martial arts and gadgetry. Eggsy is left gawking with surprise.
Just as Hart is not quite the mild gentleman he seems, Eggsy is more promising than his slouchy appearance lets on. Hart discovers that he is brilliant and athletic as well as loyal to a fault, and he offers him the opportunity to train for the position of Kingsman agent.
The secret service division operates behind the front of a tailor’s. “The suit is the modern gentleman’s armor,” Hart explains. He pulls a secret lever, and the two descend into the headquarters of a top-secret organization that saves the world daily without a hint of public recognition.
Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the eccentric antagonist whose personal agenda involves global apocalypse. The internet sensation and billionaire wears a baseball cap perched sideways on his head and speaks with an insufferable lisp. Ever by his side is Gazelle, his personal assassin, whose pair of prosthetic legs double as lethal blades.
“Kingsman” promises to look and feel like an old-fashioned spy flick, and its efforts are both creative and self-aware. This movie is a tribute of sorts. It is a worries-free approach to storytelling that stands in juxtaposition to the brooding tenseness and washed-out color tones of the Jason Bourne action movie era. With a plot that is both far-fetched and theatrical, the film is unburdened by a responsibility to reality. Add to this mixture some British charm, as well as chaotic yet sophisticated fight-scene choreography, and the viewer is free to enjoy an irreverent and impossible world where an agent can dispatch a roomful of henchmen without spilling his drink.
Underneath it all, though, the film has heart. It is easy to root for Eggsy’s character development from misunderstood underdog to hero. His story has exactly the right amount of moral ballast and emotional tension to prevent things from unraveling into cartoonish parody. “Kingsman” is a classy tip of the hat to a beloved genre, and it is a welcome addition to this decade’s growing collection of successful comic book to film adaptations.