REVIEW: The King’s Man (2021)

A Film directed by Matthew Vaughan

Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of those films that somewhat came out of nowhere and became a sleeper hit simply because of the sheer audacity of the plot and it’s injection of “coolness” back into a stale genre (spy films). While the follow-up was not as well received, this prequel starring Ralph Fiennes looked every bit as flashy and spectacular as its predecessors. Many were wondering what a change of scenery into World War I, hot off of it’s 100 year anniversary, would do for the franchise. but the overall question was – could it recapture the magic of the other films?

“Set during World War I, The King’s Man tells the exhilarating origin story of Kingsman, the world’s very first independent intelligence agency. The film Follows Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), who uncovers a plot against England during the onset of the war. Allied with Shofa (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), they set off to put a stop to it. As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions across the globe, one man must race against time to stop them. Their mission puts them in conflict with the sinister Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), and sets up the Kingsman organization that audiences know and love.”

I would say yes and no – when this film is good, it’s really good, and at other times it feels uneven – not bad, mind you, but tonally it swings wildly like a pendulum. It’s almost like the movie is torn between being a comedic action film and a serious war drama, giving the viewer whiplash and messing with pacing a bit. I loved the more zany scenes, such as just about any time that Rasputin is onscreen as played by Rhys Ifans, and I loved the WWI battle sequences, I just wish they blurred together a bit more. It’s almost like the writer wanted to make a serious World War I film, full of politics and discussions about colonialism, only to realize that they were in fact making a third Kingsman film at the last second. The whiplash reminded me of the original Suicide Squad film in terms of the tonal shifts.

The acting is very good in this, which is no surprise considering the all-star cast of prominent UK-based actors here. This is one of the few films with Fiennes where I have seen him play anything other than a villain, which was cool. If they decide to ever give him the Liam Neeson path of playing cool action guys, I’d be all for it. Rhys Ifans stole the show for me, his portrayal of Rasputin was equal parts discussing, insane and terrifying in a great way. Yes, his character is an amplified cartoon version of the historical figure, but it’s basically what everyone assumes he did just ramped up to 11. This sort of interpretation reminded me of the way that Hitler was portrayed in Inglorious Basterds to a degree.

Speaking of historical figures, while I have been known to gripe about historical accuracy in media, The King’s Man is by no means trying to be a serious film, and because of that it was fun and in no way aggravating. I always look at it this way, unless the movie is trying to present itself as historical fact, or use it’s images to do some sort of political statement, I don’t really care how historical it is unless its COMPLETELY off-base. An example of that would be a comparison to something like the beloved film, Braveheart, which pretends to be a historically accurate film, but is insanely wrong in depicting actual historical events.

I mean, any concern about this being an educational film should stop with the fact that this film presents that every historical event in the early 1900s is masterminded by an evil Scottish goat farmer and his secret society of people with animal codenames including Lenin and Rasputin. While it’s cool to see historical events mentioned and represented, this is about as correct as an Assassin’s Creed video game.

I’m not sure if this will be picked up for a sequel, but if it does get the greenlight – I’m all for it. It ends on a cliffhanger if you watched the post credits scene that would indicate the plot for a second film, the question is whether that tired, beaten up horse will be dragged out. I would hope that with any other ventures into this franchise will stay true to it’s roots and come to terms with what film it is actually going to be. The “best of both worlds” approach worked here, but only just.

With all of my issues outlined above, I still quite enjoyed this movie and am glad I watched it. Perhaps it is because I like the first films quite a bit, or that I’ve been consuming numerous bits of media related to World War I these past few months, but this was the perfect antidote for my unfortunate mental state due to “doom watching” historically grim world events all of last week. If you are looking for a fun, but dramatic war movie I’d definitely recommend it. you don’t really need to know much about the other films, although you will appreciate some of the stuff at the end a lot more. I hope some kind of sequel gets made in the future, as I am a big fan of this series.

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