The joy of being a sequel is that your world and the characters that inhabit it have already been set introduced. As a result you can take these characters and throw them into any situation, knowing how they will react. Alternatively, you can be like Kingsman: The Golden Circle and kill off most of those characters and locations we know so well. This is absolutely genius in terms of developing the plot because it’s immediately made clear to us that nobody is safe. It builds on the original films message of “trust no-one” by throwing the main cast into a whole new set of characters with no safety net. It’s the equivelent of Emperor Palpatine executing Order 66 about 20 minutes into Attack of the Clones. It puts us in a sense of unease because if the writers are willing to start a film with that, there’s no telling what else they might do.
We follow our only surviving Kingsmen, Eggsy and Merlin, as they team up with their American counterparts, the Statesmen, to take on a deadly drug virus. In a coincidental turn of events, Statesmen happen to have saved Eggsys mentor Harry Hart. Yes, he was shot at point blank range in the head but the beauty of comic book movies is that something like that can be cured. Had this been just another spy film, it would have meant certain death, but in the world that Kingsman has established it’s not implausible. To be honest, I’m really glad they brought Harry back because I think it’s one of Colin Firths best roles. I’m also glad because Eggsy has been through enough and without Harry or Merlin, would be the only Kingsman left. In a horrifically tragic turn of events, Merlin doesn’t make it to this films end, sacrificing himself so that the final mission can succeed. The buildup to this moment and the weight of his actions are given the time they deserve. As a result of this heroic moment, I was unable to listen to Take me Home, Country Roads for several weeks without tearing up.
To contrast this sadness there must be joy and a considerate amount of that joy is provided by the presence of Sir Elton John. He is being held captive by our villian which leads to a really bitchy Sir Elton and a wonderful variation of Saturday Night’s Alright upon his rescue. I really enjoyed seeing this side of him and hope he participates in more cameos like this going forward. Watching The Golden Circle helped me realise that we need more stories depicting well-functioning drug users. This film makes a point of stating that sugar is as addicting and unhealthy as hard drugs and leads to as many deaths, so why shouldn’t drugs be legal and taxed like alcohol? It’s a conversation that our governments need to start having, especially when you consider how many places have now legalised marajuana and how their economies have benefited from that. Im no drug expert but in the UK there are at least 5,000 deaths per year from alcohol and 78,000 from smoking. This is an issue worth talking about and should be on of the main things you take away from The Golden Circle. When you’ve finished enjoying the chases and gadgets. Once you’ve appreciated the effects and the acting. While you re-listen to that stunning soundtrack, I want you to ask yourself and the people around you one thing. If tobacco and alcohol can be legal and taxed, why can’t drugs?
The James Bond franchise is on the verge of releasing its 25th installment but throughout the years of escapades, gadgets and misogyny it has never provided anything like Kingsman. Bond has always played more to the espionage side of being a spy as opposed to the violence that stems from that same line of work. The most recent era of Bond has been more action packed but it has also been based more in reality, while maintaining a 12 rating. Kingsman has none of those issues, managing to balance both the espionage and violence while also being filled with love and laughter.
We follow Eggsy, a youth down on his luck, as he trains to become part of the elite, off-grid spy organisation known as Kingsman. This happens to coincide with a billionaire genius carrying out his plan to save Earth with a human genocide. The villain of the piece is Richmond Valentine who is a subversion of the kind of villain you usually see in such films. He’s not some eloquently spoken megalomaniac with a grand plan, he’s afraid of blood, wears casual clothes and speaks with a lisp. He is the polar opposite of a badass so having Samuel L Jackson play him makes the character inherently funny. It also helps that Samuel L Jackson, as well as everybody else in Kingsman, has terrific comedic timing whether it be delivering a joke, conversing with another character or simply reacting in the background. The humour in the background of shots is just as funny as whats happening in the foreground, particularly from the character of Merlin. He has some of the best lines in the film, be they during the parachute training or the climactic battle, but his facial expression whenever somebody takes his clipboard is just as hilarious.
This humour is perfectly balanced by the heart in Eggsy and Galahad, portrayed by Taron Egerton and Colin Firth respectively. Eggsy is talented but finds himself a victim of unfortunate circumstance. His father died while training to be a Kingsman and his step-father is an abusive alcoholic with a crew of cronies. Galahad is the agent who trained Eggsys father and missed something that ultimately led to his death but is now also training Eggsy. Their father/son relationship is the heart of this film and its conclusion is one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever sat through. This climax is preceded by Kingsmans finest scene- a 3 minute long massacre in a church set to Lynyrd Skynyrds Free Bird. I am not a fan of gratuitous violence or gore, but to accomplish it with gorgeous cinematography, to one of the finest songs ever written in one solid take is a feeling of satisfaction beyond words. Most of the action pieces in Kingsman are like this, though not in a single continuous take. The climactic battle is set to KC and the Sunshine Bands Give it Up and I can think of no film where this would work so perfectly.
There’s a reason that all of this works. There’s a reason why choreographed violence fits so well with espionage. There’s a reason why you can set these to such fun pieces of music. There’s a reason that peoples heads can explode into a colourful spiral like some kind of LSD trip. That reason is due to the world that Kingsman creates for itself. It is particularly stylised, abiding by its own rules, and when you realise that it was based on a graphic novel, that style immediately shines through. This may be a spy movie but at its core it is still a Comic Book Movie. It creates a world in which none of this seems far fetched and has fun with it. Kingsman is a delightfully fun watch and at the end of the day that’s the highest praise I think a film can receive.