Epic Movie (Re)Watch #118 - Kingsman: The Secret Service
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes!
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: Yes.
Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes. #343.
1) I love this movie. It’s so much fun, it has a great blend of style and character, and it’s just a treat all around! Honestly it’s probably the best Roger Moore James Bond movie without Roger Moore in it.
2) Hey, it’s Mark Hamill!
3) The bad guys are so polite in this movie.
Thug; “I’m under very strict instructions not to hurt you.”
4) Hey, it’s Jack Davenport!
Too bad he, like Mark Hamill, dies very early on in the movie.
5) The score in this film composed by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson is one of the things that infuses this film with the energy it has. It has JUST enough of that classic 007 feel to know that’s what they’re going for, but not too much to distract the audience. The rest is a fun, action packed score which adds an extra dose of adrenaline to the film. I love it!
6) Sofia Boutella as Gazelle!
Boutella’s scar is quickly on the rise, having memorable rules in this, as Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond, and as the titular monster in Universal’s upcoming The Mummy reboot. And this films tells you why. It is a smaller role, especially when compared to Eggsy or the main villain Valentine, but every scene Boutella is in defines the character. She’s fierce but also incredibly loyal to Valentine, but that doesn’t mean she’s not human. You see bits of kindness, curiosity, wonder, and humor. Boutella merges all these qualities wonderfully in the villainous Gazelle and her scenes with Sam Jackson are a delight!
7) Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine.
Sam Jackson is great in this role. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen the legend give a bad performance. Has he been in bad movies? Sure. But he always commits 100% and gives it his all, and here’s no different.
Valentine is an interesting character in that he’s the best example of a villain believing he’s the good guy. He doesn’t want to kill people, he doesn’t want to hurt people, he wants to save the world, so he’ll get others to kill and hurt people for him. Samuel L. Jackson is a lot of fun in the role, adding a nice lisp which (according to IMDb):
Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Richmond Valentine was originally intended not to have a lisp. However, Jackson completed his first take with a lisp. Matthew Vaughn yelled “cut!”, and talked to Jackson, who revealed to Vaughn that, prior to having an acting career, he actually had a lisp, which he eventually overcame. It was also jokingly remarked that this lisp is Valentine’s reason for being villainous.
It’s a great part of the film.
8) Harry Hart/Gallahad’s need for the Kingsman to progress past snobs already establishes him as an interesting character among the spy organization. It shows he truly understands what it is to be noble. That it’s not about the circumstances of one’s birth but how you treat your fellow man. But more on that later.
9) Taron Egerton as Eggsy.
Although the film was largely marketed on the star power of Firth, Jackson, and even Michael Caine, it is Eggsy who’s the real hero of the film and he is awesome! Eggsy is an intriguing character with a lot of nice layers/surprises which pop up in the film in fun ways. To start we learn that - even as a “punk” - he lives by a strict moral code of not ratting on his friends and taking care of his own, but he’s not below petty pranks of revenge (as in stealing a jackass’ car and then driving it backwards). He can keep a secret and largely fends for himself, only calling upon the favor Harry Hart offered him 17 years later when he REALLY needs it.
Egerton is fantastic in the role! He embraces every layer of Eggsy. The kindness, the loyalty, the rough edges, the temper, the brashness, all the contradictions and surprises, and he blends them together in a believably way. He’s funny, charismatic, and an absolute star on screen.
10) I never understand why Eggsy’s mom decided to marry such a shit after his dad died. Maybe because he can support them? I don’t know, but Eggsy’s stepdad is a prick.
11) I love this
Harry: Your father was a brave man. A good man. And having read your files, I’d think he’d be bitterly disappointed in the choices you’ve made.
Eggsy: You can’t talk to me like that.
Harry: Huge I.Q., great performance in primary school. And it all went tits up. Drugs, petty crime, never had a job.
Eggsy: Do you think there’s a lot of jobs going around here, yeah?
Harry: Doesn’t explain why you gave up your hobbies. First prize, regional under tens’ gymnastics, two years in a row. Your coach had you pegged as Olympic team material.
Eggsy: Yeah, well, when you grow up around someone like my stepdad, you pick up new hobbies pretty quick.
Hart: Now of course. Always someone else’s fault. Who’s to blame you for quitting the Marines? You were halfway through training, doing brilliantly, but you gave up.
Eggsy: Because my mum went mental, banging on about losing me as well as my dad. Then we wouldn’t be cannon fodder for snobs like you, judging people like me from your ivory towers with no thought about why we do what we do. We ain’t got much choice, you get me? And if we was born with the same silver spoon up our arses, we’d do just as well as you, if not better.
I think this is great for a few reasons. It tells us a lot about Eggsy (gymnast, marine corp, huge IQ) but it SHOWS us a lot too. It shows up that he respects himself and that he’ll stand by the decisions he’s made in the past. It shows us that Eggsy takes shit from no one, no matter how in the right society may say they are.
12) I love the fight scene in the bar, otherwise known as “Manners Maketh Man”.
It is our first real showcase of the film’s stellar action sequences, which hold up for the rest of our two hour ride. I think the action is most marked by a fun, fast pace, but also incredible fight choreography. It’s an excellent case of action/reaction or action/consequences. Everything leads into everything else and it all flows so beautifully.
13) Remember how I said Eggsy had some nice layers?
Harry [trying to describe training Eggsy to be a spy]: Did you see the film Trading Places?
Harry: How about Nikita? Pretty Woman? Now, my point is that the lack of a silver spoon has set you on a certain path that you needn’t stay on. If you’re prepared to adapt and learn, you can transform.
Eggsy: Oh, like in My Fair Lady.
Hart: You’re full of surprises.
Eggsy is not some moron tough guy who’s masculinity is too fragile to watch and appreciate My Fair Lady. Harry obviously has this image in his mind of what Eggsy is (a guy who likes raunchy comedies and action movies).
14) Is it me or is the idea of a spy organization run totally on its own above any sort of law or government shady as fuck? And they use fear tactics to train their recruits and want them to willingly shoot a poor dog in a cold blood (more on that bullshit later).
15) I love Roxy.
She doesn’t get nearly enough screen time but is given some nice development in the time she does.
Is able to be civil in a competitive field without it getting in the way of her goals.
Has an incredible fear of heights and/or falling, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what needs to be done towards the end of the film (which is a great arc in and of itself).
Is willing what needs to be done to accomplish her goals (like shooting a dog to be in Kingsman).
We see her and Eggsy develop a nice friendship. Not a romance, not a will they won’t they, a mutual respect among peers and also platonic support. If the sequel can improve on the original in one way (and listen carefully Matthew Vaughn) it would be to include more Roxy!
16) Can we be honest? If there was a US president who would participate in the planning of mass genocide from this current decade, it wouldn’t be Obama.
17) The water tank!
Not only an example of the film’s great action, but also imaginative set pieces and classic spy thrills. Also - and I say this as a hetero guy - but Eggsy’s abs have even me going DAMN.
18) Me too Sam Jackson. Me too.
Valentine [after he has to blow up Professor Arnold’s head or risk exposure]: “He made me kill Professor Arnold. I goddamn loved Professor Arnold.”
19) This line really sticks with me.
Valentine [after Gazelle says she reached out to various secret services]: “Beijing. So freaky how there’s no recognizable name for the Chinese Secret Service. Now that’s what you call a secret, right?”
20) I’m a dog person, okay? I love this.
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
21) Remember how I said that Kingsman is a shady spy organization? Well it should really follow the Captain America rule of ethics and not include any bullies in its services. The only two candidates who aren’t pricks are Eggsy and Roxy!
22) The skydiving scene - akin to the water tank scene - is a great example of the film’s wonderful set pieces and fun writing. It also gives us Roxy’s fear of heights and/or falling and Eggsy supporting his friend (and later fellow teammates) even though if he left her there it would mean he’d advance through the program. It’s so great! Even Merlin (Mark Strong) is getting tense watching!
23) I get hungry for McDonald’s every time I see this film.
24) The scene where Harry visits Valentine at his home for a gala which turns into a dinner date (basically) is a very Bond scene. They each have a sense for who the other is but play nice, act civil, make vague threats. I call it “Into The Lion’s Den.” Very 007.
25) This. Fucking. Quote.
Harry (quoting Ernest Hemingway): “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
I live by this fucking quote.
26) This film has some pretty great humor.
Harry (showing Eggsy how a knife hidden in a boot works): “Now do your very best impersonation of a German aristocrat’s formal greeting.”
Harry: “No, Eggsy.”
[Harry clicks his heels and a blade pops out of his right shoe]
27) THIS STUPID BULLSHIT WITH THE DOG!!!!
Arthur [the head of Kingsman, handing Eggsy a gun]: “Shoot the dog.”
So the final test to be a Kingsman agent is to shoot a dog who’ve you spent the last few months training and growing attached to and if you shoot the dog you get in.
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
And later it turns out the gun was only filled with blanks and Harry says Kingsman only condone the taking of a life when it’s necessary.
We only condone the taking of a life when it’s considerate and thought out, but we want to make sure all our agents are mindless coldblooded killers who follow orders without questions because that always works so damn well. You know, because we’re the good guys.
So Harry goes to a hate-group church in America which Valentine has shown an interest in to inspect it, and we hear a little bit of their extremely hateful rhetoric before Harry gets up to leave…
Harry: Would you excuse me?
Female Patron: Where are you going?
Female Patron: Hey! What’s your problem?
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
And then Harry gets up to leave and Valentine (who’s in a nearby building) starts a mysterious machine he tests out on the church. What follows is one of the greatest action sequences to grace the screens of cinema:
Content Warning: The below video features hyper-violent, bloody, stylized violence. Watch at your own discretion.
Everything about this scene is perfect. The choice of music feeds directly into the high speed sense of pacing, and the choice to speed up the film just a bit not only supports that same aspect of pacing but also gives the scene the quality of a runaway train. Because that’s what Harry is right now: he’s out of control! He has no ability to make decisions he just lets loose with every hateful whim that pops in his head. But probably the thing that makes this scene work as well as it does is the decision to make it a continuous shot. You cut back to Eggsy, Merlin, and Valentine/Gazelle as they witness this event, but the fight inside of the church itself is a continuous shot (or edited to appear as such). This goes back to my earlier point of how the action of the film plays very much into cause/effect or actions/consequences. You witness every little thing that happens. Harry runs out of bullets? He starts to beat someone with his gun. Someone just tried to stab him? He takes the knife for himself. It is continuous. It flows. And it is just an adrenaline filled scene to watch.
Note: I saw this twice in theaters, the second time with my parents. My mom loves Colin Firth and did not take too kindly to the fact that he murdered a bunch of people. She thought the scene was great, but she didn’t like that they made Colin Firth do that. My mom is very cute sometimes (like when she asked me in Rouge One when Chewbacca was going to show up, knowing full well he didn’t).
29) After the church scene, Valentine shoots Harry point blank in the head and hates how it feels. Gazelle points out that he just killed everyone in that church.
Valentine: “No, no, no, they killed each other.”
That is so fucking important for Valentine’s character. He doesn’t tack responsibility for any of his actions. He doesn’t see himself as the villain. He sees himself as a savior who hasn’t even killed anyone!
30) Note: The scene I’m about to discuss is best experienced without knowing that it’s going to happen. If you want to be surprised by it, skip on to note #31.
So skipping ahead a bit to when Eggsy has infiltrated the enemy base (since all the notes I made during the preceding scenes I’d made already), the way everyone’s head blows up in a scene I call “Pomp & Circumstance” is hysterical.
In contrast to the hyper violent and sometimes too realistic fight in the church, the filmmakers opt to make a more cartoony and artistic violent scene. And if you don’t know it’s coming you laugh so hard when it happens (hence the note above).
31) The song choice of “Give It Up” as Valentine operates his hate machine gives it a similar sense of pacing as “Freebird” did in the church scene. This film really understands that music is it’s friend.
32) This scene seems weirdly empowering towards women.
Swedish Princess (who is captive in Valentine’s base, after Eggsy says he has to save the world before he rescues her): “If you save the world, we can do it in the asshole.”
And in any other movie this would be written off as, “Oh, a guy wrote that line.” But this script was written by a man and a woman, meaning she had to okay it. So…weirdly empowering, right?
I think I should move on.
33) The fight scene between Gazelle and Eggsy may not be the sheer perfection which is the church scene, but it’s a fun watch nonetheless and it uses Gazelle’s blade legs to their advantage.
34) Remember how I said this film’s score incorporates JUST enough 007 in it? Well the little bit of horn we get just before Gazelle dies represents that perfectly. That’s a very James Bond moment.
Valentine [after Eggsy has fatally wounded him]: “Is this the part where you say some really bad pun?”
Eggsy: “It’s like you said to Harry: this ain’t that kind of movie, bruv.”
It kinda is.
36) And we come full circle.
Kingsman is spectacular. It’s possibly my favorite spy movie of 2015 (which had Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spy, The Man from UNCLE (sorry @theforceisstronginthegirl), Bridge of Spies, and SPECTRE), definitely one of my favorite action movies ever, and hell it’s one of my favorite films of all time. It is just a fun ride with great style, characters, and acting. A true delight through and through. Go watch it now if you can!