Movie Review: Kingsman The Secret Service

Based on The Secret Service (Comics) by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar

Screenplay: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Directed by: Matthew Vaugh

Cast:  Colin FirthTaron EgertonSamuel L. Jackson

Most of the times you could almost hazard a guess from the trailer just how awesome (or dull) a movie is going to be.

I predicted Kingsman: The Secret Service to be a no-nonsense entertainer that would give me a good value for money.

Turns out, Kingsman is one of those movies that even surpasses your wildest expectations. (And I definitely got more than just the value for money!)

It was an entertainer, all right — but not just a clueless, bang-bang flick. It was an amalgam of a great story, a unique execution, and a genuine tension builder, that keeps you at the edge of your seat all the way.

Synopsis (Very tentative, no spoilers!)

Kingsman, an International super-secret service just has a hit on the disappearance of VIPs from different countries across the globe.

In a solo mission to save one of such VIP, Lancelot, one of Kingsman’s top spies, dies in the line of duty.

The secret service now must quickly replace him.

This replacement is assigned through a contest between few young boys and girls, chosen by various senior spies that includes (code names): Arthur (Michael Caine), Galahad (Collin Firth), and Merlin (Mark Strong). The winner of the contest becomes the next Lancelot.

Enters Eggsy (Taron Egerton), an everyday Brit street kid, who is full of potential. He is chosen for the contest by Galahad, who also becomes his godfather to repay an old debt he owed the boy’s father.

Now, as a global terror lurks in the form of Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a tech genius looking to “save” the planet, the young man Eggsy must struggle to prove his worth to his mentor, to the Kingsman, and most importantly, to himself.

Afterthoughts

“It’s not that kind of spy movie.”

It’s a famous line in the movie, that comes up quite often. And, ironically, it stands to be true.

Think of irreverent movies. Think of Quentin Tarantino. Think of Kick-ass (also by Matthew Vaughn).

Kingsman is in the same line. Yes, including the violence. (Awesome violence, I might add. Shhh!)

Matthew Vaughn, after establishing his impertinent mark with Kick-ass, has now taken on the realm of spies. And he does it ever so brilliantly.

The movie has all the gadgets and the techs one would expect (poison-point pens, shoes with knife, grenade-lighters, bulletproof umbrella… you name it), and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. For me, that was the best part about this movie. Ever the funny, it builds with great pace and takes the audience into the world of gentlemen spies, who are the “new knights with suits as their present day armor.”

The plot is good and story even better. The conflict is genuine and gets you hooked from the first few scenes itself. Of course, that is only true if you can digest a little violence… like, say, someone being vertically sliced into two?

If a global-warming frenzied psycho trying to save the planet by wiping out the population isn’t enough conflict for you, the movie also has a young street kid having to prove his worth. Then you have the mentor (Galahad) himself trying to right few mistakes of the past.

Major Characters

The brilliance of Samuel L. Jackson cannot be praised enough. As Richmond Valentine, he portrays a superfreak villain, who keeps us smirking with his dialogs and then scares the shit out of us with his actions. Keeping a fine balance between comedy and terror, Jackson shows us exactly why he’s so much in demand these days.

Collin Firth is equally exceptional in his role as Galahad. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine anyone more apt for this role. He has taken on from his subtle and classy performance in The King’s Speech and added a lot more style and action to it.

Taron Egerton is a surprise package in this movie. He is excellent in delivering the emotion that his role requires, and when he puts on the suit, he does seem a little Bond-ish. He looks more than believable… he is perfect as Eggsy.

All in all

Kingsman is an all-round entertainer. From action scenes to stunning visual effects, acting mastery to well-developed characters, great storytelling to a well-balanced pacing, from belly-tickling humor to jaw-dropping tension… the movie, like a real good spy, has successfully got all its grounds covered.

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Movie Review: Seventh Son (2015)

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy

Based on a novel by Joseph Delaney (The Wardstone Chronicles: Spook’s Apprentice)

Writers: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight , Matt Greenberg (Screenplay),

Director:  Sergey Bodrov (Prisoner of Mountains)

Cast: Julianne MooreJeff Bridges, Ben Barnes

 

I haven’t read Spook’s Apprentice.

Meant to do so before the movie came out last week, but I couldn’t.

And now I’m terribly sorry for it.

The movie was nothing like what the reviews of the book suggested the book to be (they hardly are, anyway) and I think I lost my chance at a rewarding experience of knowing Thomas Ward and his world.

But.

What if I manage to free myself of that grudge, and view the movie as an original piece of work?

Well, it still changes nothing much.

The Story (SPOILERS!)

Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a local, drunken Spook, who catches supernatural beings in exchange of some coins.

One fine day, Mother Malkin (Julian Moore), the Queen of Witches, whom Gregory had locked down years ago, returns to exact her revenge. She kills his apprentice, Kit Harington (Jon Snow from GoT, anyone?) and summons all her followers (other witches/shape-shifters) to attack human.

Master Gregory, now, must find a new apprentice (the seventh son of a seventh son) and train him with witch-battling skills (that takes years to learn, let alone master) in just a span of one week.

Enter Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son. A simple farm boy with no idea whatsoever that ‘nightmares and legends’ (as Master Gregory puts it) are real.

Of course, it goes without saying that from there, the two join hands to battle Mother Malkin and her crew of witches to save the day.

Ooh, almost forgot… in between, there is a subplot of Thomas Ward falling for this young witch, Alice (Alicia Vikander), and battling the ever rising question of whether or not all witches are bad.

Afterthoughts

Make no mistake, it’s an entertaining movie. Specially, with all that awesome visual effects (a shout out to the talented John Dykstra, Star Wars fame) how could anyone not be entertained?

Two spooks fighting shape-shifting dragons and sexy witches? Sign me up. Sign me up, now!

The premise was set, the story was cool, the audience (book readers and non-readers alike) were ready.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t go any further from there and got stuck somewhere in the level of mediocrity. It was entertaining, but too far off from the point of being memorable.

Major Characters

Jeff Bridges is too perfect for the role of the Spook. His growly voice magnifies the spookiness. The acting is ever so brilliant (as one would expect from him).

His arc is quite satisfying. He starts out as a Spook with little care for anything in the world. Then we get to know that he is a lover in disguise. Who had once fallen for a Witch, but then had to marry a human-girl, who was then murdered by the same Witch. That sort of thing is bound to turn you into an asshole and we can finally understand what’s with all the spookiness!

Julian Moore pulls of Mother Malkin with a flair. Although, the role hardly required her to show the brilliance of acting that we all know she is truly capable of.

Her character also has a nice arc. At the beginning, she’s just a pure evil, but by the end (spoilers!) we get to know that she was the witch that Master Gregory had fallen for. And she was betrayed. That turned her malevolent. I think we can all relate to that.

No? Anyone?

Ben Barnes looks relatable. You know what I mean, right? The usual farm boy turned into a hero of the prophecy after the visions of the oncoming doom. Ben Barnes plays that sort of guy well. We feel sorry for him, we want to give him a boost, and we seriously want him to kick some ass.

Overall Satisfaction (conflict and all)

The major conflict in the movie is twofold.

One. Can they stop Mother Malkin and her team of witches in time?

Two. Is Thomas even ready to kill? Or do whatever it is that the Spook does?

Oh, and there’s that forgettable plot of whether or not all witches are bad. Never mind that.

Now, come on, people. I’m all for ordinary farm boy rising up to answer his calling or to fulfill the prophesy.

But years worth of training in one week? Eeesh.

And what’s up with that climax where all of a sudden the hero gets the pendant, and just begins to fry out all the bad people? For me, that’s just lazy. It is not supposed to be that easy.

Also, as per the movie (and not the book), it is too soon for Master Gregory to give up his staff to Thomas. He hasn’t had enough training and I do not think he is yet ready to take up the mantle of the new Spook (although that is what the last scene suggests and preps us up for the big sequel).

The movie has too many loose ends for me and just leaves me unsatisfied.

All in all

For book readers, Seventh Son is a book done bad. Not Eragon bad, though (maybe Percy Jackson bad, I don’t know). But the talented special effects team and the excellent cast keep the story going and make this an entertaining theatre experience.

For others (like me), this movie might be successful in keeping you stuck on your seat (please notice not at the edge of your seat) throughout the screen time, but it will not make any lasting impression in your mind.

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Based on a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (All You Need Is Kill)

Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Jez Butterworth (screenplay), John Henry Butter Worth

Director: Doug Liman

Stars: Tom CruiseEmily Blunt

 

Easily, one my favorite movies of 2014. A fast paced, captivating, and involving sci-fi thriller.

The Story (SPOILERS!)

The aliens known as Mimics have conquered most of the Europe and are moving on the entire world.

Meet William Cage (Tom Cruise), an army PR officer, who is thrown in the line of duty with total disregard to his desire (or skills, for that matter).

In the battlefield (almost D-Day), Cage engages himself with an alien known as Alpha. And although he manages to kill it, he gets its juice (blood, gore, whatever) all over him.

He pretty much dies.

Only to wake up a day back in time.

Turns out, the freaking aliens have a way to reverse time each time one of their Alpha dies. That was their edge over the humans.

Good news? Now Cage has this power too.

He teams up with Rita Vatraski (Emily Blunt), a war hero and poster-child of the war, who had had those powers in the past but lost it after a blood transfer. She trains and guides Cage, as he dies over and over again, learning new things about himself and the aliens along the way and getting stronger.

Finally, together they seek out the den of the Mother Alien (an octopus thingy, only larger and way grosser) and kill it for good.

Afterthoughts

Edge of Tomorrow is an enthralling story of a man caught in time. It entertained me throughout. The concept of ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’ is not new in itself (remember Groundhog Day?). Nor is the concept of an unlikely hero put in a ridiculous steel suit and send out to fight the aliens (Pacific Rim, anyone?)

But a nice blend of these two concepts, a master storytelling, and some badass special effects provide “Edge of Tomorrow” that special edge over other sci-fi movies of the past year.

Major Characters

William Cage and Rita Vatraski are, undisputedly, two compelling characters with well-crafted character arcs.

Tom Cruise depicts William Cage and the role of i-don’t-want-to-do-this-shit hero brilliantly. He makes us live his frustration and cheer his actions. Action is something he’s always been good with and in EoT,  too, he holds back nothing (even at fifty!).

Over the course of the movie, he turns from a scared, poor warrior thrown into a lost war to a hero that the world needs, who, ultimately, saves the day. We sigh when he fails and we rejoice when he shows an act of bravery.

Emily Blunt is simply awesome as Rita Vatraski. She is one of the most captivating female characters you’re ever going to see in a sci-fi movie (and most badass). We are introduced to a snub side of her. You know that particular trait we find in characters who have seen too much war? Yeah, she’s pretty much called the “Full Metal Bitch”. But as the movie progresses, we get to see the “human” side of her. We can really feel her anguish over not being able to succeed when she had the power. And her reinvigorated hope when she finds Cage with that same power.

Most intriguing thing of all is the relationship between these two. Now Cage has known Vatraski for, literally, many a lifetime. But from her point of view, she has only known him for a few hours. That makes things difficult for Cage. He even starts to develop a feeling for her (as well he should after dying so many time alongside her!) but she has nothing for him. Poor William Cage.

The Tension

Despite knowing that our protagonist can’t possibly die (although that situation changes by the end), the movie doesn’t fail to keep the tension rising.

The conflicts are too graving!

Cage’s internal conflict about being a warrior he isn’t is nice — a typical trope but well executed. Vatraski’s internal conflict regarding her failure to use the power to a good use and her vow to succeed with Cage is interesting too. And then there is that superbad alien race threatening to conquer the world.

Important thing. The movie is about a day being lived over and over, but the audience, however, get to see a different side of things every time. A different exposition, a different character building, a different piece of information — the story moves quite differently each time. In other words, only Cage lives the same moments over and over, not the audience.

The scene do not feel redundant, so hat’s off to the editing team for that.

All in all

“Edge of Tomorrow” is a classic sci-fi thriller. A master story with a captivating plot, well-crafted characters, and well developed tension.