TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Posted on January 17, 2015


After having its name changed from simply The Secret Service, and the release date of the film moved from October of 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service finally premiered at London’s Leicester Square on Wednesday.



Due to these changes, there has been an almost palpable sense of anticipation for the film. However, keeping the public waiting certainly did no disservice to it. The release now neatly coincides with London Collections Men, the capital’s fashion week for all things stylish and sartorial – which, for a film that centers on an independent intelligence service whose home is on Savile Row – can be no bad thing. Also, the name change will only help to turn Kingsman into a franchise, which, after the success of the premiere, seems inevitable; there can be little doubt that there will be sequels.

150112-mr-porter-kingsman-savile-row-q-a-1Adapted from the comic book series The Secret Service by Mark Millar, with artwork from the legendary Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame, Kingsman: The Secret Service shares many stylistic traits with Matthew Vaughn’s previous Millar adaptation, Kick-Ass.

secretservice3As such, Kingsman is a grandiose take on the British spy genre films of the Sixties, full of meta references and tongue-in-cheek homage. However, Kingsman manages to be more pastiche than appropriation, taking all the elements of the genre, rolling them up and regurgitating them in an explosive rainbow of balletic comic book violence, irreverent wit, and effortless style.



As mentioned above, this is a very violent film. Very violent. If you, like Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine, are appalled by the sight of blood (or severed limbs or explosive decapitations) you might want to think about giving this film a miss. But if you do, you’ll be missing out. Because, despite the violence – or perhaps because of it -the film transcends the usual boundaries of suspension of disbelief. Everything is so over-the-top, so utterly ridiculous, that it ceases to have any tangible connection to reality. This is, after all, a comic book adaptation, and it never lets you forget that this is all just a bit of fun, even when people are gawping as their severed hand sails past them in slow motion, still clutching a gun.

KINGSMAN GETS VIOLETDespite the many light-hearted references to Bond and other spy films and television shows, it’s important to note that Kingsman is no mere spoof. It’s a proper spy movie that somehow manages to pull off the delicate balance between seriousness and irreverence. It’s a intricate cocktail, which, if blended incorrectly, could result in either something like Austin Powers or The Avengers. Instead, in Kingsman, we get a film that has as much knowing fun with itself as we do as an audience watching it.

kingsman_sam_jackson_sofia_boutella_1Much of this is down to Vaughn’s direction, of course, which is suffused with an energy that is hard to match and a sense of humour that combines both razor-sharp wit with schoolboy jokes. But the success of Kingsman isn’t in the direction alone. The entire production fuses to create this perfect blend, whether it’s the saturated colours of the cinematography, the lightning-cut editing, the production design (that not only manages to completely nail the Savile Row aesthetic but also pays homage to the great Ken Adam on numerous occasions) or the orchestral stings that references the late John Barry, everything comes together. Not subtly, granted, but it all just works.

Perhaps the greatest achievement in Kingsman is in the casting. Firth is so good in the role of Harry Hart that it’s hard to imagine any other actor filling his handmade shoes. Harry – aka Galahad – is much like the film itself: He’s a perfect blend of every British spy and secret agent that ever was. A dash of Bond, a hint of Steed. Mix in some Harry Palmer and leave to simmer. He’s mostly the quintessential English gentleman, but occasionally there are emotional moments where we see behind the stiff upper lip to his fragility and his deep-seated ethics, and this is where Firth really shines. He’s just so human and so utterly likable.



Taron Egerton, who plays the film’s protagonist Eggsy, is a genuine talent. Like his Savile Row suit, the whole film hangs on his rather muscular shoulders, so it is no small feat that he manages to hold his own with such a stellar cast; starring alongside heavyweights like Sir Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson without being out-gunned is no mean feat for an actor’s first film. There’s no doubt he’s got the acting chops and he doesn’t hurt to look at, either, which certainly won’t damage his career in the future.



Another newcomer, Sophie Cookson, who plays Roxy, looks like she’s been doing this forever and it’s the sort of confident performance that you’d expect from a much more seasoned actor. Admittedly, she’s not given as much to do as the boys, but she takes what she has and works with it. It’s easy to see why she beat out the other contenders for the role, such as Bella Heathcote and Emma Watson.



On form as always, Samuel L. Jackson plays a larger-than-life megalomaniacal egotist and manages to outdo himself in the role – which, for a man with a personality as large as his, is no small undertaking. Much has been made of his character’s lisp, but the character is more of a reflection on the kind of celebrity that thinks they can and should save the world, a result of too much money and too much time on their hands. Incidentally, his comical lisp is actually something he had when he was younger and he turned to acting to overcome it.



Mark Strong gives solid support and is one of the few actors working today who can play villains, heroes, and supporting roles with ease. His Scottish accent does seem to be rather extraneous, and feels like he’s doing it just because he can. This does jar a little, but he is such an asset to the film that it really doesn’t detract from his performance.

MARK STRONG KINGSMANMichael Caine has perhaps the least to do as Arthur, the snobbish head of the Kingsman. However, despite spending the majority of the film seated, he manages to have fun with the role and there’s a nice nod to his past as cockney Maurice Micklewhite.



Look out for cameos from an almost unrecognisable Mark Hamill and a blistering turn from Jack Davenport as Lancelot that almost breaks the fourth wall and may leave his Bond naysayers thinking twice.

JACK DAVENPORT -KINGSMANFinally, credit has to go to the incredible skill of Sofia Boutella, who most will know from her incredible dancing in the Nike adverts. Boutella plays Gazelle, whose legs have been replaced with razor edged running blades. These elegant but deadly prosthetics allow her to run extremely fast, perform athletic leaps, and cut her enemies down to size. Not only does she perform her own stunts in the film, but she is also very at ease in front of the camera, and she is certainly no mute henchwoman, and gives new meaning to the term “sidekick”.



The other star of the film is, of course, Savile Row and its tailoring. The Kingsmen of the title operate from behind the doors of a Savile Row tailors and, naturally, the gentlemen spies of the organisation are all dressed beautifully in bespoke Savile Row tailoring, and are equipped with the finest accessories British artisans can provide (albeit with some special modifications to suit their particular line of work).

150112-mr-porter-kingsman-savile-row-q-a-2Costume designer Arianne Phillips has done an exceptional job on the film and in this area in particular. The suiting is fantastic and manages to be both traditional and directional at the same time. Gone is the grey two-button suit. In Kingsman, everything is double-breasted and patterned with rich fabrics and textures. No doubt we’ll all be clamouring to kit ourselves out in Kingsman style, which is just as well as this is where Kingsman manages to pull off a film merchandising first. The film production has teamed with online luxury menswear retailer Mr. Porter to create the Kingsman Collection.



The Kingsman Collection comprises many of the pieces actually worn by the lead characters in the film, including the suiting, and accessories are from a literal who’s who of British classic manufacturers, including Bremont, Cutler & Gross, Drakes, and George Cleverley. And, like Bond, The Kingsmen get their shirts from Turnbull & Asser. So, depending on your budget, you too could be cutting a dash in Kingsman apparel. It seems incredible that this has never been done before, however, Kingsman seems to be the perfect vehicle for this unique tie-in.

All this might just seem like clever marketing – and it is – but with product placement being such a key factor in filmmaking these days, it makes sense to take ownership of if. Creating an actual brand that exists in the real world as well as in the film is all part of Kingsman’s meta approach. For instance, the Kingsman tailoring shop is loosely based on Huntsman and occupies the same location on the Row.

The exterior was used for filming, whilst the interior was a set (which, incidentally, looks a lot like Huntsman). However, for a few days, Huntsman actually became Kingsman, with the shop being transformed to match the film’s interior and selling only the clothes from the collection. This blurring of boundaries between reality and fiction is just one of the things that makes Kingsman so enjoyable.

150112-mr-porter-kingsman-savile-row-q-a-5At its heart, Kingsman is the classic transformative story, and its message is clear: It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, the power to be the best you can be lies within you, and we all have the ability to become more than we are. By contrast, James Bond is impossibly aspirational. We can only dream of being Bond, but any of us – if we look within ourselves – can become a Kingsman.



KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE opens nationally on 29th January in the UK.

Visit MRPORTER.COM for details of the Kingsman Collection.