The King’s Man – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Matthew Vaughan
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance
After two successful instalments of Kingsman action spy comedies (based on the comic book series the Secret Service), it was only a matter of time before we got a prequel explaining how the super-secret gentlemanly organisation came to be. While the previous two offerings, Kingsman: Secret Service (2014) and The Golden Circle (2017) are all set in contemporary times, this takes us back to the early 1900s.
This follows the period from the Boer War in 1902 up until 1919, a year after the Great War ends. Vaughan takes actual historical events and incorporates them into the story as Fiennes aristocratic Orlando, Duke of Oxford, recruits people into a spy network dedicated to protecting the United Kingdom and the British Empire from the approaching war. However, his son is keen to do his bit, much to Orlando’s chagrin and it leads to conflict between father and son.
Fiennes gives a strong central performance here and Arterton is fantastic as Polly, one of his servants recruited into his spy circle (we really don’t see enough of her in movies). However, the convoluted story does them no favours. There is a huge amount going on and even the most rigorous historian would probably struggle to keep up with all the characters in the context of this film.
For much of the movie, it takes itself quite seriously so when it descends into action thriller territory it is somewhat confusing. There are some spectacular shots and big set pieces but they feel out of place. It is almost like two movies spliced together. A serious family drama about a man trying to protect his son from the horrors of war and the big-budget spy thriller. It often feels disjointed and can’t seem to decide if it wants to indulge in humour or take itself seriously.
Stylistically it looks great throughout and has some really fun moments but it often gets bogged down in the history of the period. When it lets its hair down and has fun with the subject matter it is very entertaining but it is inconsistent. It is definitely the weakest of the Kingsman movies although fans of the franchise will enjoy it.
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