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The King’s Man Review: First Mission Accomplished?

In 2015, Matthew Vaughn gave a facelift to the spy film with Kingsman: Secret Service. 6 years later, the director changes the recipe a bit and plunges us into the origins of the saga. Does this new film make sparks?

When we think of an English spy film, it is often the name James Bond that is mentioned first. A solid reputation that the character has forged over the years, and which still continues to attract crowds. Just look at the box office numbers of To die can wait to tell himself that the English character still has a bright future ahead of him. However, the agent camped by Daniel Craig recently seemed to be the one and only representative of this genre, once greatly appreciated.

If a reboot of The Saint is in preparation, we have to admit that films in the tradition of the genre have largely been absent from cinemas in recent years, viewers probably preferring muscular fights between superheroes. However, Matthew Vaughn had managed to restore the image of the spy film to the public, with the first opus of the saga Kingsman.

Adapted from the comics by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman follows the adventures of young Eggsy, an orphan who discovers that his father was a secret agent. He will be recruited by Kingsman and join the ranks of the very serious secret organization.

kingsman explosion world war
© 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Entertainment in its purest form, the film succeeded in combining the codes of the genre with those of comedy for an explosive and completely enjoyable cocktail. A second part will be produced two years later, still as sassy and trashy. The public is there and each of the films brings in more than $ 410 million at the box office. Quickly, 20th Century Fox decides to give it a sequel, or almost.

The King’s Man: First Mission intends to return to the origins of the organization. In the 1910s, as the worst tyrants in history meet to plan the elimination of millions of innocent people, a man sets off in a race against time to thwart their plans.

Pointed helmet and hairy boots

This new part contrasts radically with the tone of the previous opus. You have been warned. If the first films wanted to be pastiches of James Bond or Bowler Hat and Leather Boots, here the inspirations are very different. Matthew Vaughn and Karl Gajdusek tackle this time the war film by centering their plot on the clashes of 14-18. On the other hand, the two screenwriters do not forget to integrate a vast political plot into their narration.

Did they shoot themselves in the foot? Far from there. If we could fear this change of course, we have to admit that even revisited, the filmmaker’s recipe continues to surprise us. If he has not reinvented the powder, Matthew Vaughn knows his score inside out and gives birth to entertainment that is certainly more serious, but which does not forget to add a little absurdity here and there.

kinsgman sequel
© 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Despite its two hours or so, the film manages to maintain a steady pace without rushing its conclusion. This tangle of intrigue and stakes works quite well, even in its dramatic outbursts. The King’s Man: First Mission is sometimes even more successful than the second part of the adventures of Eggsy and Harry Hart.

In short, it’s a bit as if 1917 met Bowler Hat and Leather Boots. On the other hand, the film does not avoid some pitfalls and what is most striking is the difficulty of bringing together these two diametrically opposed universes. A slightly bastard form which nevertheless ends up being forgotten as we get closer to the conclusion. In some ways, the film is a patchwork of inspirations sometimes sewn with white threads. Not free from faults, of course, but always equally assumed.

The King’s Man pulls out the heavy artillery

Visually, Matthew Vaughn had already done miracles with the first shutters. Here, in addition to the hypervitaminated choreographies, the director puts in images a war of the trenches all in sound and light. An efficiency of staging rare in the genre and which manages to give substance to the story. The director excels in the exercise, aided by the photography of Ben Davis (3 Billboards: The Vengeance Panels and The Eternals).

If the visual gags are fewer, we still have not recovered from the explosion of heads in the first film, The king’s man does not lack inventiveness in its staging. At the bend of several fight scenes, the filmmaker puts us in our eyes. It beats up severely, it’s violent, precise and downright exhilarating. We will not detail the scenes that particularly caught our attention, but know that they are quite numerous.

A fine team

Who says new adventure says new characters, and necessarily new actors. Exit Colin Firth and Taron Egerton, the new duo is played by Ralph Fiennes and Harris Dickinson. Another monument of English cinema, less used to romantic comedies than the interpreter of Harry Hart, Ralph Fiennes demonstrates all his charisma to play the English nobles, a bit badass, but still very distinguished. Harris Dickinson is not left out, as is Gemma Arterton, the only representative or almost of the fairer sex.

Finally, we will end with Rhys Ifans, always impeccable in his register, both wacky and hilarious. A master of the absurd who once again works miracles, in the shoes of Rasputin. Enlightened casting choices that hit the mark and allow the film to fill its few narrative lengths.

gem aterton in kingsman
© 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

We will end with the music of Matthew Margeson and Dominic Lewis, which lacks a little density. It does not manage to mark the spirits like the score of the two previous opus of the license, the departure of Henry Jackman is undoubtedly for something. Nevertheless, we can note some flashes, especially during the scenes of rhetorical and especially physical confrontation with Rasputin.

We will have the opportunity to find Matthew Vaughn at the helm of Kingsman 3, still with Taron Egerton and Colin Firth in the lead roles. Filming is due to start in September 2022, with a release likely the following year.

Rediscover the Kinsgman saga on Disney +

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