Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Dir: Matthew Vaughn
Despite arguably being the lead and considered a ‘rising star’ by BAFTA, Taron Egerton’s name oddly isn’t featured on the header of the poster or the DVD case, top billing goes to the rest of the stellar cast that Matthew Vaughn recruited for this comic book adaptation that makes use of all that modern James Bond has thrown away.
Wayward youth Eggsy (Taron) is recruited into a secret spy organisation, Kingsman, that his late father was once part of. Mentored by (Colin Firth) to fill a vacancy in the organisation, he is trained in spycraft before being called upon to thwart the evil plans of tech giant Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson).
A couple of years ago I attended the local secondary (high) school’s achievements evening with my surrogate family and the headteacher did a Skype link to speak with an ex-pupil who was now an actor living in London. This actor I’d never heard of or seen in anything before, announced to the auditorium that he’d just been cast in a film by the director of Kick-Ass, and when he said it was alongside Colin Firth and Sir Michael Caine the room erupted into fervent applause. We live in a quiet seaside town, everyone knows everyone else and for a local boy to go on to such a high-profile project is a source of great pride in the community. That actor was Taron Egerton, and the film was this!
Right from the very slick opening you get a clear taste of what’s to come, as the film remains pretty slick throughout with some overt Bond influences. Rather than just drawing unfavourable comparisons, it takes the references head on in a very knowing way, stating it’s not a Bond film while making full use of the types of plot, gadgetry and characters that would feel right at home in most especially the ‘Pierce Brosnan’ era of the franchise, though largely distanced from the latest 007 outings. Add to that bursts of the ‘Hyper-real violence’ anyone familiar with the source comic or Vaughn’s earlier work may expect, though a step further than ‘Kick-Ass’ but along similar lines. This stylisation allows the film to get away with much more than you would if it was more realistically depicted, especially within the rating it was granted in the U.K. For example, a sequence in which hundreds of people’s heads explode, would not usually be something that can pass as a 15, but it’s stylised to such a degree that it becomes essentially metaphorical, turning comical and even artistic.
I’ve not read the comic, so I don’t know how much of the film comes directly from that but I expect i’s the source of the Knights of the Round Table references, it’s a clever idea that really reinforces the gentlemanly underpinnings of the organisation. What an organisation it is, full of renowned British stars, Colin Firth, Sir Michael Caine, Mark Strong and others. Interestingly as mentioned in the introduction, the posters and home release cases don’t put Taron Egerton’s name at the top, just Firth, Caine and Jackson. I know he’s not as much of a draw as they are, but still he is the lead, so a little ‘and introducing’ would’ve been nice to see, especially on the DVD and Blu-Ray cases at least.
Samuel L. Jackson as the baddie is an interesting choice, he’s been in a few comic book adaptations, with varying levels of success. This time with a lisp and dome dastardly plans he looks like he’s loving playing this villain who dresses and acts like he’s not quite grown up, but has evil intents that dwarf most baddies. Beside him is double-amputee henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). When the first posters were released, I thought they were borderline insensitive to depict someone with prosthetic ‘blades’, as at the time the trial of world-famous blade wearing paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was still underway. The reality of the situation is stranger than you would ever expect. Before his arrest, Pistorius was approached for the role, and when his management were asked if they thought he was capable of portraying a killer, they responded ‘yes’. Pistorius has since been convicted of murder and missed out on taking the role of an interesting and strong, albeit negatively portrayed, disabled character.
There are alternate edits of the film in different regions around the world. The incredibly detailed and rough ‘church scene’, which is key to the film, was completely cut out in some regions, and edited down in others. Plus, the final third of the film has a line that leads to the last pre-credits scene, referring to something that’s so offensive or even illegal in some places that it too was completely cut from the film. I’m not the only one who thinks that joke was more than slightly off-colour for the film. My reason is solidly based on the rest of the film, that Eggsy is time and again told that he’s being trained not just to be a spy, but to be a gentleman. There are things that a gentleman does, and things that a gentleman does not do, drummed into him throughout, and apparently effectively. The final scene involves a princess offering something a princess would not offer, a Eggsy, a gentleman, far too readily accepting in a barely gentlemanly way. It does feel unnecessary, and the wrong way to end a film that has spent the whole time telling us that he’s a gentleman really.
I predicted this well in advance, Taron Egerton has been nominated for the BAFTA rising star award, which often predicts actors that will go on to have impressive careers. Previous winners have included James McAvoy (the first recipient in 2006) and Tom Hardy with other nominees such as Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. Even just being nominated is a good sign for an actor that they are getting good roles and may continue to do so, plus not winning isn’t an issue, many runners-up have done FAR better than the winners. The rising star award is the only BAFTA voted for by members of the public. Living in Aberystwyth, Taron Egerton’s home town, there are posters in the windows of certain shops encouraging people to vote for him, and I expect many have done. U.K. residents can vote for which of the five nominees they think should win here.
Will he win? Well, there are two ways of looking at it. He may, as it’s voted for by the public and there are many text-happy people who loved ‘Kingsman’, it did great business at the box office and on home media. On the other hand, one of the other nominees is John Boyega who is still in cinemas in ‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens‘, another crowd-pleasing film. That’s who I think will probably win the award as practically everyone has seen the new Star Wars film, but Taron Egerton is absolutely second choice, and may even win it. I think of the two I’d rather see Egerton get the award, as John Boyega doesn’t need any more profile raising, presumably he’ll be in the next two Star Wars episodes and that will be keeping him busy and in work for the foreseeable future. Egerton has a good number of roles lined up, but any boost to getting him the best roles would be good. His next film, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ will be interesting, the trailer shows it has a tone slightly more light-hearted and comedic than I’d expected, but I think it should do quite well when released in a few weeks, early signs are good.
I expect the plot of the sequel will be quite different, the characters have come a long way in this one so the next will almost certainly pick up with them in full-flow as Kingsmen. I just hope Vaughn doesn’t ruin it with a further lowering in tone, as what I heard about ‘Kick-Ass 2’ put me off seeing that at all despite liking a lot about the first. This won’t become a full franchise like Bond but there’s a solid foundation for at least a trilogy of fun, if gory, action that continues to make use of the gadgetry, slickness and outlandish aspects of Bond that have been done away with in the Daniel Craig era.
While ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ itself is not nominated for any major awards, however Taron Egerton is nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award, to be awarded on February 14th 2016. If you’d like a bespoke dining table like Taron Egerton’s visit www.theheartofoak.co.uk and look at their lovely products.