A pacifist does all he can to try and keep his headstrong son from enlisting to fight in World War I which leads to the formation of The King’s Man Agency.
One of the best franchises to have surfaced over the past decade has been the very British King’s Man franchise. A kind of mix between James Bond and a Quentin Tarantino film the original film not only made Taron Egerton a household name but also introduced the world of a cinema to a secret organisation that could even see Colin Firth lay waste to a room full of villains.
A second film soon followed and of course fans of the franchise soon started to ask more and more questions about this society and how it began. Well now those questions are answered as writer/director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) returns to the universe with a prequel aptly titled The King’s Man.
The film chronicles the early days of The King’s Man organisation as widely respected pacifist Orlando Oxford(Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List) works with his hired help, Polly (Gemma Arterton – Clash Of The Titans) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou – Guardians of The Galaxy), to investigate a cabal that he believes he is working to keep World War I continuing as long as they can.
While the cabal, which is headed by Morton (Matthew Goode – Stoker) and aided by the likes of Rasputin (Rhys Ifans – The Amazing Spider-Man), are playing out their cunning plan Orlando finds himself wanting to try and end the war anyway he can after his only son, Conrad (Harris Dickinson – Beach Rats), expresses an interest in enlisting.
The term prequel when it comes to an established franchise is often a scary notion but Vaughn has delivered an absolute classic with this film – it is easily better than the second film and gives the audience a great insight into the organisation and the characters that started it.
The power of this film though is that Vaughn is more than willing to try various things throughout the film. Yes, the traditional action sequences that made the first film so special are back, but added to that is the fact that Vaughn has a real handle on characterisation this time. Then there is also the brilliant screenplay, which is co-written by Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion), which goes from tear-jerking moments to laughs with ease and is never afraid to mix genres as well. The scene in which a trio of king’s men take on Raputin has just the right mix of comedy and action and is one of the best cinematic moments of the year, as is one of the film’s biggest twists that we unfortunately can’t talk about here as it would be a spoiler for a major plot point.
The strongest point of this script though is the relationship that Vaughn stets up between Orlando and Conrad. The dynamics between the two shift from a relationship made up care and respect through to a combative nature that makes both explore their views on the Great War. Even better is the fact that Vaughn moves away from Hollywood tropes to bring a close to the storyline that is a sheer stroke of screenwriting genius.
To the credit of the screenwriting team there are no wasted characters in this film either. While a lot of focus is placed on Orlando and Conrad that doesn’t mean that that characters of Polly and Shola are left lacking. Both have enough characterisation to make them interesting enough characters and most audience members will find that the hint that there may be a follow-up film to this one very welcoming.
The brilliant acting performances here though belong to Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans. Fiennes is an acting force in this film – delivering both action and dramatic scenes amazingly well and he is well matched alongside a nearly unrecognisable Ifans playing the notorious Rasputin. The fact that Ifans is able to make the character comical while remaining a fearful villain is credit to both actor and screenplay.
The King’s Man will be loved by fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. The right mix of action and characterisation make this a memorable film while the amazing screenplay and characterisation make this a worthy entry into this already brilliant franchise.