In the first “Kingsman” film, Colin Firth presented the succinct origin to his organization to Eggsy as this: “In 1919, a great number of (the world’s elite) had lost their heirs to World War I. That meant a lot of money going uninherited. And a lot of powerful men with the desire to preserve peace and protect life. Our founders realized that they could channel that wealth and influence for the greater good. And so began our adventure.” That simple explanation sets the stage for Michael Vaughn’s prequel known as “The King’s Man” to expound upon in a wild ride from the Boer Wars through the “War to End All Wars” and to the agency’s inception in the heart of London where we know as the beginning.
This thing to understand here is that “The King’s Man” packs an epic amount of storytelling into every minute of the two hour and eleven-minute presentation versus the high-octane action that drives the other two films in the series. The title should be taken literally from two perspectives. First, this is NOT a “Kingsman” movie and does not lay into the raunch nor action of the first two. Second, the focus is on the King’s MAN (singular); however, no man is an island and Ralph Fiennes as Duke Orlando Oxford is supported by the three people closest to him. Gemma Arterton perfectly fits as Polly, the intelligence specialist/housekeeper while Djimon Hounsou maintains his reputation as arguably the greatest African-born actor in the role of Shola, the chauffeur/family protector, and rounding out the core is Harris Dickinson as the Duke of Oxford’s rebelliously altruistic son, Conrad.
The desire for benevolence creates the framework for this film, from the Duke’s protective nature to his son’s extreme sense of duty and ultimate taking the necessary actions to battle an evil collective intent on world control and domination. That dynamic also works itself into the larger story overall as the Duke finally takes his son with him on a mission (which he tries to make seem like a compromise with his son versus agreeing to let him join the front line) to face who could most notably be the big bad in this malicious group in Rasputin, played by Rhys Ifans, who disappears into the character so thoroughly, I am moderately concerned for his mental well-being.
It would not surprise me in the least if this film were to be nominated for multiple auxiliary awards for the phenomenal costuming, set construction, and (many) subtle uses of digital imagery. Each of these crew members carry immense weight in immersing the viewer in the picture while allowing the picture to somehow focus on the microcosm in the world that is this makeshift family and yet still presents the backdrop as a true World War.
Matthew Vaughn continues to grasp exactly the story and direction of this cinematic world better than many writer/directors do in other properties I have seen, and I cannot wait to get more films in this series, even if it continues to be a few years between each.