Speaking of spy movies, which I do, quite often, I loved this quote from Kingsman: the Secret Service…
“Nowadays, they're all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones... marvellous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.” – Harry Hart.
And that’s something I back up one hundred percent. The Jason Bourne type movies are okay, but my preference is for a total fantasy, gadgets, cars, exotic locations and improbable plots involving megalomaniacs with hideouts in dormant volcanoes with henchmen that have hooks for hands, or titanium teeth.
Something that I noticed earlier on this year was the resurgence of spy fantasy movies in the cinema in 2015. Of course there’s Bond in SPECTRE, which is the first time I’ve really looked forward to a new Bond film since Pierce Brosnan’s departure.
Then, there’s a New Mission: Impossible movie, the fifth in the series – and I think they’ll miss a huge advertising opportunity if they call it ANYTHING but MI5. And then, there’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. a TV series I’ve loved since the sixties, and a film I was really looking forward to until I saw the trailer, now I feel kind of deflated about it.
But before any of those hits the screens – there’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. And I can’t actually think of a better way to kick off the Year of the Spy. Odd that I hadn’t heard anything about it until I saw the trailer. Why odd? Well, it’s a spy movie which should have put it on my radar, it’s based on a graphic novel (which I haven’t read, admittedly) called The Secret Service by Mark Millar who gave us Kick Ass, Wanted and the so far unfilmed Superior for another. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughan for another – the director of Kick Ass and X-Men First Class. So we know that its creative pedigree is beyond reproach.
As I mentioned, I haven’t read the original material, so whether it’s true to its source or not – I can’t comment. But what a movie – from the very first scene, it grabbed my attention with some sharp razor one liners and a level of gratuitous violence that make Kill Bill look tame by comparison. (I need to add here that, just like the Bond movies, it’s stylised, fantasy violence.)
So, what’s it all about? Well, the Kingsmen are a department of English gentleman superspies, pretty much like John Steed. All dressed in suits, wearing the type of heavy rimmed glasses that Michael Caine wore back in The Ipcress File days (which is fitting seeing that the head of the organisation is played by Caine.) Their base is hidden with a tailor’s shop as a front (as in Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and they all have access to unheard of levels of gadgetry with a seemingly limitless expense account, just like 007.
Now, the villainy, Samuel L.Jackson is Valentine, a computer software genius with the requisite megalomania for taking of the world – except he wants to purge the planet of most of its inhabitants, seeing us as a parasitic virus who are killing the planet – and it’s kind of hard to argue with that kind of logic. His deformed henchman, sorry, henchwoman is one that would give Oddjob, Jaws and Rosa Klebb a run for their money. Dancer Sofia Boutella plays Gazelle – a deadly amputee with steel legs equipped with razor sharp blades and an expertise in martial arts and gymnastics.
Our superspy is Harry Hart (Colin Firth, who is one of the last actors I’d expect to see in something like this, but damn, he’s good in it. ) – code name Galahad (they all have knight based code names) whose mission it is to stop Valentine, and also mentor a new agent. A street punk named “Eggsy” (Taron Egerton) a teenager with a lousy background whose father once saved Hart’s life. Trouble is, the kid has an attitude and some rough edges that are kind of hard to smooth off when you’re trying to train a gentleman.
The film works on all levels. If you want action, it’s here in abundance. If you want to laugh, there’s plenty of comedy. If you want some violence, including a virtual massacre in a church, this is your ticket. It’s a fast moving tribute to the days when spy movies were fun, the hero was unruffled and always dressed impeccably and was as quick with a quip as he was with a gun. Both aimed unerringly. Even the publicity poster above is based on For Your Eyes Only’s publicity campaign….see?
This’ll actually tide me over until Bond and Mission: Impossible.
Maybe even U.N.C.L.E.