The King’s Man
Despite astonishing special effects that will leave you shaking your head at times, the film has some heart and soul that makes it work.
To begin with, this is a prequel to the two prior Kingsman films released in 2014 and 2017. I liked both of them and I didn’t want this one to disappear from the theatres before I gave it a shot.
I’m glad I did. I’ve yet to see a movie starring Ralph Fiennes that was not a wonderful experience, and this film is no exception. Just as he has done in movies ranging from Schindler’s List (1993), The Harry Potter films, several Bond movies and the recently overlooked The Dig, his talent was evident for decades.
Though the film combines fact with fiction, it focuses on the beginning of World War I. Led by the Duke of Oxford played by Fiennes, you watch as the Kingsman Intelligence Agency was formed to try and prevent a war that killed millions of European men.
Haunted by the loss of his wife years earlier, the Duke also wants to keep his son (Harris Dickinson) out of combat. He also seeks to find a way to force the Kings of England, Germany and Russia to compromise.
In the process, Director Matthew Vaughn shines his camera on the ghastly human loss in this diabolical conflict. He will remind you of the great World War I films Paths of Glory (1957), Testament of Youth (2014) and last year’s epic 1917.
Mr. Vaughn also creates a subplot about a Scottish terrorist who wants war to destroy England. While this will hold your attention, the special effects that follow lose their force with their ridiculous length.
First of all, there is a parachute scene involving the Duke that is fun to watch but absurd beyond words. In addition, while you will watch sword fights go on and on, wait until you see the outrageous performance of Rhys Ifans as Rasputin. He’s like a sexually sick ballet dancer who can dance in thin air as he seeks to kill.
The movie is also helped by the performances of the Duke’s assistances played by Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou. Thankfully, for Fiennes survival they prove tough to kill.
So let me close by saving this film is not a waste of time. In pre-pandemic times, it would have been fun to find a bar after leaving the theatre with friends where we could share our opinions over several “short ones.”