For decades, Agent 007 has set the standard for Brits in spy films. “Kigsman: The Secret Service” in many ways bucks the trend set by James Bond while simultaneously paying homage to the film series.
Set in present day England, “Kingsman” stars Taron Egerton as Egsy Unwin, the delinquent turned spy street kid who contacts the agency his deceased father once worked for in order to escape prosecution. Due to his social status, Egsy has a chip on his shoulder while in training with his other, more affluent peers.
While the rags-to-riches story is nothing new in film – especially in American cinema – “Kingsman” one-ups other films by offering a unique blend of action, comedy, and espionage in ways it’s predecessors could not. While James Bond has been the symbol of spy films since 1962, the films consistently portray Bond as a wealthy, polite, and skilled gentleman. The Bond films leave little room for laughter, with the obvious exception of comedic relief.
One film that is in many ways similar to “Kingsman” is 2008 Timur Bekmambetov flick “Wanted.” Both films star a young British actor (in “Wanted’s” case, James McAvoy) as a down-on-his-luck, hapless man who is unaware that their bloodline is linked to a secret agency (for “Wanted,” mercenaries) or unaware of their own special talents within the field. Even as the layers of the film are peeled, the twists and turns take a familiar route.
Unlike “Wanted,” however, the villain in “Kingsman” is plain as day. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Richmond Valentine in a role tailor-made for him. Valentine is a wealthy philanthropist who offers free SIM cards to give the world internet access for free – but at a cost unknown to them.
Of course, what good is a spy movie without a menacing villain who possesses a unique power and challenge for our protagonist? Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) on the outside looks like an assistant who walks with the aid of bladed prosthetic legs, but, as the audience immediately discovers, those prosthetics are for more than just walking.
“Kingsman” will not reinvent the spy wheel in cinema, but in the dead of winter, when many people prefer to hibernate rather than go outside and face freezing temperatures, the film gives the viewer a reason to go out.