The newest film in the ever-growing franchise of The Kingsman takes us back to a time before Taron Egerton and Colin Firth took on their now iconic roles, to the very beginnings of their secret organisation.
In The King’s Man, we are introduced to Duke Orlando Oxford, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his son Conrad, played by Harris Dickinson, as they become embroiled in a rather uncertain time of world history. It’s 1912, and the world has never seemed more divided – and that’s even before the murmurings of a plot to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.
The story explores the human and personal costs of stability on the world stage. The biggest emphasis is on how war continues to ravage even those who survive it. Orlando is a veteran and wrestles with the long-term fractures these experiences have inflicted on him. Meanwhile, Conrad sees only the war time propaganda: the fear of being called a coward and the honour that comes from a medal.
As you can expect from this series, director Matthew Vaughn doesn’t shy away from the violence. The slowing down of the goriest shots and close-ups on sudden and brutal violence are all accounted for. Despite being set in a different era, The King’s Man fits in well with the rest of the franchise. The signature aesthetic, cinematographic style, and even the score ensure this latest entry feels like part of a greater whole.
The actors each take on their roles with zest and life, playing them to the best of their extreme skills. Having the protagonist fall in with an older generation of actors and taking on intense, combative action heroes is something that has worked well in previous films, while Fiennes – as he does with all roles – plays his character’s emotional complexity with raw honesty. Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou are outstanding, often stealing the show with refreshing humour and stand-out action sequences.
Another interesting visual and acting decision – which pairs well with the contextual political – is to have Tom Hollander take on the role of the battling monarchs of the early 20th century: namely King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia. Hollander’s ability to take on these roles and play them seamlessly is a credit to his talents, as well as a good decision by casting director Reg Poerscout-Edgerton. Another word couldn’t be written without also applauding Rhys Ifans’ portrayal of Rasputin, which is just as chaotic, self-important and overtly sexual as history books depict him to be.
The King’s Man might lack that same brand of shocking originality that made its predecessors box office hits, but it still manages to find its own rhythm, engaging in interesting moral conversations and delivering engaging characters, all while enlivening the ongoing franchise.
The King’s Man is out in cinemas now.