Kingsman is a film I found incredibly difficult to apply a critical lens to. Throughout the entire film I was giddily exhilarated and constantly entertained, whether through a dizzying fight scene, a unique blend of US/UK humour, or through the general childish wish-fulfilment inherent in any film that takes the Alex Rider idea of teenage spies. If you’re looking for two solid hours of fun, I doubt many films in 2015 will even come close to Kingsman and, even though there are some obvious flaws, they are so easy to overlook that they barely even registered to me. Without a doubt, Kingsman will prove divisive, with its hyper-violent and yet irreverent tone, but I absolutely loved almost every second of Matthew Vaughan’s Kick-Ass take on James Bond.
A film of two distinct halves, one focused on London lad Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (newcomer Taron Egerton, proving very adept at the accent) and his training to join the eponymous spy agency, modelled after the Knights of the Round Table, and become their new Lancelot. The other story strand follows Harry Hart (Colin Firth), codenamed Galahad, investigating suspicious tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L Jackson), who seems to have a hand in the disappearances of celebrities, scientists, and world leaders. As Eggsy, recruited by Galahad, goes through the competition to become a secret agent, he runs into not only the imaginative tests of Merlin (Mark Strong) but also blatant class-ism. The rest of the prospective Lancelots are all from the most privileged of backgrounds, and watching their slow and resentful acceptance that Eggsy may just be the best of them is joyous, without ever feeling preachy.
Meanwhile, Galahad explores the globe in an attempt to uncover Valentine’s plan, which I shan’t spoil here, as its reveal is one of the most deranged and cathartic scenes I’ve seen recently, the effects of which would only be lessened by knowing the story beforehand. Suffice to say, it allows for some truly unique action sequences, especially when Eggsy and Galahad’s stories coalesce. Taking what he learned from Kick-Ass, Vaughan refuses to bow to realism or anything else that would slow the pace of the fights. Everything is lightning-fast and hyper-violent, but stylised to the point that they never feel arduous. The breakneck speed and comic-book martial arts are made even more entertaining by the presence of ‘70s Bond-style gadgets, of which the bulletproof umbrella is bound to become the most iconic. To call Kingsman insane would be to be to severely oversell its subtlety.
This over-the-top tone feeds its way into all the lead performances, from the incredibly game Colin Firth (the part was written with him specifically in mind), to the scenery-chewing, lisping Samuel L Jackson. Everyone here is on the same page, with no-one taking their part more seriously than they should. The whole thing is an absolute blast, and one that definitely merits a rewatch, as the manic pace all but guarantees that you’ll miss something.
At a more objective, less gushing, glance, Kingsman has some obvious, even glaring, faults. The story is predictable, the female characters are one-note, and the budget constraints become very obvious in certain scenes. Yet, I didn’t care at all about these flaws. Reviewing a film like this is a near-impossible task for me, because I simply enjoyed it so much that I don’t want to consider the negative points. I was grinning for nearly two solid hours, and the only thing that lessened my happiness was the knowledge that I couldn’t see the film again immediately after it ended. If you’re seeking thought-provoking cinema, Kingsman is far from the film you want, but, if you buy into its shamelessly energetic world, there will be few cinema trips in 2015 with as much unadulterated glee as this.