Kingsman: The Secret Service

While Mark Millar (Kick Ass, 2010) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, 2009) gave us the original comic book, Jane Goldman (Stardust, 2007) and Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, 2011) gave us the screenplay for this movie. Vaughn also directed it.

This is an homage rather than a rip-off of the James Bond franchise. This is not just a cheap parody, it stands up as a spy-movie in its own right. As we know from James Bond, the world is full of secret evil organisations all vying for world domination but what we have here is a highly secret group of good guys who ensure the world’s governments can act. That said one might also comment on it being a parody of the poor guy/gal does good movie, whether My fair Lady (1964) or Pretty Woman, (1990).

About 17 years ago a young agent on the verge of completing his training was killed in action. He was Killed because agent Harry Hart, better known by his service codename “Galahad” (Colin Firth, The Railway Man, 2013) missed a trap. Now today that agent’s son is in a some trouble at home. Many years ago the agent’s widow was given a medal with a number on it and told to ring the number if there was an issue. Today in a police cell, the son, Eggsy (Taron Egerton, Testament of Youth, 2014) rings the number and almost immediately things happen. Now rescued Galahad suggest that the young Eggsy joins their organisation, he agrees.   The issue here however is , Eggsy’s social class, he is working class, most of the other agents are members of the aristocracy, for reasons best explained in the film.

All of this goes on against the background of mysterious dealings and missing people all somehow associated with billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson, Django Unchained, 2012), as the movie moves along both groups learn more about each other, the Kingsman agents striving to foil Valentine. Eggsy begins his training with his fellow intake, only to fail at the last hurdle, however as with any of these films that becomes a minor technicality and our hero goes on to save the day. The humour both through the situations and the script itself, with Galahad and Valentine musing about old “fun” spy movies.

The plot will not win any prizes for originality, but who cares. One of the reasons the film works is its speed, there is not a scene in the movie which should not be there, there is absolutely no padding. The support cast is first class, indeed we have Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, 2014) playing a “Q” type character, generally managing the secret agents as and their training progresses. I am still getting used to Strong playing good guys., while Sir Michael Caine (Interstellar, 2014) take the role of the head of Kingsman.

One other person who should be mentioned is Mark Hamill (Star Wars: Episode IV – a New Hope, 1977) who has the opening scene as Professor James Arnold, managing to set the tone for the film to come.Egerton, gives an excellent performance as the young man making the transition from drifting youngster to a highly trained agent. I could discuss the plot, but in reality the plot is secondary, we know from the start how the movie is going to go, the entertainment is in how they go to where they end-up. This is a smart movie which stands on its own as well as a parody of previous productions. I walked away wanting to check if there is material for a sequel, hopefully. It works as a spy-movie, a comedy and general all-round entertainment.

Another **** movie.

Odd Man Out

This 1947 British classic was directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man, 1949) and starred James Mason (the Desert Rats, 1953). The story is based on the book by F.L. Green. The movie is about the impact on the lives of all those around Johnny McQueen (Mason). The film is set in a Northern Irish city, pick one of the two…and revolves around McQueen as he tries to survive a botched raid. The movie does not explicitly name any organisation just the “Organisation” . McQueen is a leading figure in the Organisation and having been lying low for about six months following his prison escape he has been ordered to execute a raid to raise funds. The film is set against the background of post-war Britain.

The remains of the war are all around and rationing is still in place. The scene is dark and broody, the movie has a classic British Noir feel. The shadows are there and contain menace. Is his heart in it? From what we can gather, he is a changed man since his time in prison, so much so that one of his team asks if he should be on the raid. We learn that McQueen is a person of some worth in Republican circles. The raid fails. McQueen injured and already on the run, must find safety on the streets of the city. As he scrambles for help he must hide in those corners, the snug of a crowded bar, air-shelter, where ever he can.   All the time there is one person looking to help him, Kathleen ( Kathleen Ryan, Captain Boycott, 1947) the woman in whose house he has been hiding. She has fallen in love with him and will go to any lengths to protect him.

This is a classic crime thriller, given the republican/political edge. What is certainly noteworthy is the attention to detail employed by Reed. He manages to side step the larger political issue to concentrate on the person aspects of the situation, whether it be through the dynamic with McQueen and his gang members, the police, the women or even Fr. Tom (W.G. Fay, London Town, 1946). The hunt builds to the violent climax. All the time during the hunt we are conflicted, however abhorrent his background, we are constantly drawn to McQueen and his plight, will he escape, will he survive? What makes this film is the characterisation, Mason is supported by what was largely the members of the Abbey Theatre, the Irish National Theatre, and before you say “so what” we need to remember the Abbey provided such cast members as Cyril Cusack who played gang member Pat and Dan O’Herlihy (Fail Safe, 1964) being fellow gang member “Nolan”. Other cast members included legendary William Hartnell who went on to be the first to play the historic role of The Doctor in Dr. Who ©

We follow McQueen has he slowly and painfully descends to the final showdown with the police. Can a good man do evil, what drives him, can an evil man do good?


One might ask if this movie is an entertainment production or something meant to resemble an art work. Directed by Steven Knight, it is quite different to his last directorial effort (Redemption 2013) but still retains that sense of movement and edge. Starring Tom Hardy (Lawless 2012) as the eponymous “Locke”.

Set on the road to his destination, we are given a movie of Tom Hardy behind the wheel dealing with the consequences of his actions. It opens as he is juggling a number of phone calls to his home, work and contacts. Whatever is going on, he seems to be turning his back on a number of responsibilities, both at home and at work. We quickly learn that there is a major construction job underway with what turns out to be the biggest concrete pouring in Europe due in the coming hours, he should be supervising it, instead he is leaving it to one of his men. We see that he is also bailing on his son, not watching the big-match with him.

Locke has made decisions and now he needs to deal with them, he needs to live with them. he is about to have child, but the mother is not his wife. What we see is a man “on the edge”, possibly both figuratively, as much of the film is him trying to control his life and events surrounding him, while at the same time shot completely in the car, with only occasional changes of view to allow the viewer to survive, we watch him correct a mistake, one which cannot really be dealt with in isolation. The use of the car and the phone show how events, though seemingly not connected are often impacted by each other, purely because of the slightest connection, the slightest common denominator, Locke.

If you’ve seen Hardy in works such as Lawless (John Hillcoat, 2012) or Bronson (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2008) or even the current Peaky Blinders on TV which was created by Steven Knight you will know he is a very physical actor, he is also an actor who has learned to use his body, his face, to control the character, to communicate the message and emotion of the scene. There is a scene in Peaky Blinders where new recruits to the criminal enterprise are being briefed, one makes a joke he should not have, Hardy disciplines him by seriously injuring the person standing next to him and them giving a sermon on discipline, you could feel the menace.

From the calls we learn that Locke, is not just some employee, he should be central ot the work being carried out on the site, we hear from his instructions that he knows what he is talking about, indeed it is this very knowledge and the advice he is giving to his junior that tell us just how much he should not be in the car to London right now. Without ever leaving the front seat he brings us in to his life. We could argue that the car is a metaphor, some kind. He and his life are going somewhere at speed, it is not somewhere that he planned to go, but it is something he must do. Just as in life he is trapped by his decisions, so too is he in the car, he is stuck behind the wheel, controlling the journey, on the phone trying to control life.

We can compare this film to recent efforts such as All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013) or Buried (Rodrigo Cortés, I’d go with Buried. This film has been described as a “Dramatic thriller” or just a “thriller”. We might say it is neither, perhaps more one-man melodrama, but personally I would describe it as a thriller, in so far there is an ending, we don’t know what it is but we are along with Locke to see what it is. The use of the car is an interesting tool because it allows Knight to give us an ever changing back-drop, one against which he can display the mental tribulations he is going through. The phone conversations not only tell the story but also allow for his reaction, they are also the story.

This is not a movie about doing the right or wrong thing, this is a movie about consequences, having done wrong, he is now trying to do right. What is more shocking is that to one of his interlocutors on the phone, he is “the last person in the world” who would have been expected to do what he did. We see his integrity trying to fight through. Yes he did wrong, “only once” but the once is the key part, what comes before that once, means nothing, what comes after are the consequences. One might also suggest the building site he is leaving at a critical time is analogous to his family, again he is leaving them to be elsewhere. He talks about foundations of the building and projects he has worked on, his family also needs foundations and he may have undermined those foundations.

I recently gave an opinion on “Under The Skin”, this is also something similar, both movies are tightly focused on one person, every other person or conversation is there to add to the vision of what we see concerning that key character. Both are possibly in alien lands, with little introduction or understanding of them, we the viewer is required to learn as we progress and to judge, are these good or bad people (if you can call Scarlett Johansson’s character a person). We do however get a glimpse of the influences behind the man with his discussions with his late father. This mental exercise, carried-on out loud for us again shows how he is trying to do the right thing and balancing his moral compass through his experiences with his own father.

It is only fair to credit Haris Zambarloukos (Thor, God of Thunder, 2011) who is generally regarded as one of the top practitioners of his art. It cannot be east to work to create a movie scape which keeps us for the best part of 90minutes when you have only one subject. Zambarloukos does this, his focus on hardy, not just from the front but also side on are perfect, as to are outr glimpses of the world go by, whether it is industrial plants or even the row of lights trailing in to the past.

This is a movie for adults, in so far as the content and style will not keep kids or people with an attention span less than 5 minutes.

This is a solid 3 star.