The King’s Man – movie review

After Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, director Matthew Vaughn delivers a prequel. The King’s Man is the origin story, explaining how and why the spy organisation the Kingsman was formed. And it’s jam-packed full of action.

The story starts in South Africa in 1902. Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) from the Red Cross is visiting General Kitchener (Charles Dance). But enemy soldiers ambush Orlando, his wife Emily (Alexandra Maria Lara) and their young son Conrad (Alexander Shaw). Although they escape, Orlando promises Emily he’ll protect their son and not let him see war.

Then the action moves on 12 years. Orlando has remained true to his word, much to the frustration of Conrad (now played by Harris Dickinson). He’s desperate to enlist, but is too young. Meanwhile, a mysterious Scottish figure with a passionate hatred for England has convened a meeting aimed a wreaking havoc and instigating a world war. He aims to do so by pitting three cousins who grew up together, and are now leading figures in the UK, Germany and Russia, against one another. The plan is to use their trio of trusted advisors, including the devilish Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and Erik Jan Hanussen (Daniel Brühl).

With the help of his two loyal offsiders, Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou), Orlando works behind the scenes to prevent a catastrophe. Not everything goes their way and lives will be lost, but they are nothing if not resilient. The King (Tom Hollander) and country are depending upon them.

Importantly, Vaughn – the director and co-writer of the first two films – remains in the chair. The prequel keeps a cracking pace (I needed to concentrate to keep up), as it introduces many historic figures. One worth mentioning is Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner). Vaughn delivers twists aplenty, as he works up to an inevitable showdown.

With tailoring a mainstay (Kingsman operates from 11 Savile Row, Mayfair) of the series, the fashion sense is, naturally, impeccable. So, too, the glorious and ornate homes and palaces where the action takes place.  It is definitely a movie for those who appreciate sets, settings and costumes.

Fiennes is a safe pair of hands in the lead role, lending his considerable heft to a role that’s a combination of brains and brawn. Rhys Ifans is unforgettable as the fiendish Rasputin. In fact, overall, the strong cast kept me entertained in what turned out to be a rollicking ride. But wait, there’s more. The film dangles the promise of more big-name historic figures in future installments of this popular action franchise.

Alex First

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