Director Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek based on The Secret Service by Mark Miller, Dave Gibbons
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickenson, Daniel Brühl, Dijmon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
The King’s Man is a reverese turn from a successful franchise back to where the original movie series began with Colin Firth and made a star out of Taron Edgerton. It’s further away from it’s graphic novel roots than the first two films are, but it still shows it can have a little fun.
The story starts with Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Fiennes) on a Red Cross mission in the Second Boer War with his family in tow. After his wife is mortally wounded in a sniper attack, he retreats back to his home in England, raising his son Conrad (Dickinson). After 12 years, Conrad is eager to contribute and his father is hesitant to involve him with anything tht might lead to danger. His servants / friends Shola (Honsou) and Polly Watkins (Arterton) have different ideas and keep training him in lethality / defense.
The main gist of the story starts with the cousins of Kaiser Wilhelm, King George and Czar Nicholas and the death of Archduke Fernidand. If you don’t know what this leads to, you didn’t pay attention to world history in school. Eventually Orlando, Conrad and company are brought in to try to circumvent all out war.
The story, as presented by Vaughn, differs in tone to the first two stories that take place in modern day. His effort to infuse actual events into the fantasy work quite well, for the most part. Especially when we see the sacrifices made in World War I. The only time the movie wanders into fantasy is when dealing with the hidden mastermind behind the scenes. It is obvious early on that the head of the snake is Scottish. It will be more obvious as the film goes along that the filmmakers would not waste a famous actor for this role whom the bad guy would be by mere process of elimination.
Ben Davis’ cinematography is exceptional. The fight scenes are well staged. The screenplay is sharp, considering the time period covered. Vaughn paints a picture of flippant accuracy while covering historical figures. Revered historical figures such as Woodrow Wilson don’t fare as well as history would have you believe.
The acting performances of the protagonists are excellent throughout. Fiennes hasn’t been this invested in decades. Honsou is magnetic as the team’s Merlin. Arterton is the most enjoyably lethal as the one the team counts on when the chips are down. Dickinson gives all of the signs of a hero in waiting. The antagonists are not as intruiging or given as much to do, outside of Ifans’ magnetic Grigori Rasputin and Brühl’s Erik Jan Hanussen.
The King’s Man is an enjoyable film, despite the left turn. It holds high standards of entertainment and gives a nice package of some historical relevance. Some might think the story silly for the fact that they often bring swords to gunfights. In the end, both are well-played.
(**** out of *****)