Tag Archives: Mark Strong

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5

kingsman

A spy organisation recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. (IMDB)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past), co-written with Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black). It stars Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill, Michael Caine and Jack Davenport.

The agency is fashioned after King Arthur and the Knights of the not-so-round table, including a Merlin. All the agents’ code names are derived from the knights, like Lancelot and Galahad, and Michael Caine is Arthur. Styled after old school spy films with its personality, gadgets, and gentlemen super agents, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy action comedy film based on the comic book The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

Matthew Vaughn has created a film with a personality. An absurd, quirky, nostalgic and violent personality. It takes after classic spy movies with its style, lightness, the colourful characterisation and the even more colourful supervillain. And yet it’s like the new brand of thrillers and spy films which lean towards realism. With its gritty violence and expertly choreographed, lengthy action sequences it’s more like the Bourne, Bond, and other recent, action films.

It also seems to make fun of the very spy films of which it speaks and, subsequently, itself. The humour is satirical, tongue-in-cheek and often crass. But it manages to not take itself too seriously, and neither should the viewer. Instead it becomes an extravagant yet down to earth source of entertainment.

The plot is typical yet it surprises one at many turns. Other than the excessive, often dispensible swearing, the writing is good.

The casting is spot on. Taron Egerton, playing the role of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, was refreshingly good. A very well written, three dimensional character for a change who was more than just a typical street smart guy.  Egerton stood out and held his own very well among the rest of the distinguished cast. Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine was a good villain but not effective at being a scary, “genius megalomaniac”. His partner in crime Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), so called for her razor sharp prosthetic legs I’m sure, was much more impressive in that regard. Mark Strong (Merlin) was super as the dignified agent and trainer, especially in the second half.

Colin Firth as Harry “Galahad” Hart broke away from his popular image and pulled off the action sequences better than most. The standout church scene was simultaneously the most awesome and revolting piece of cinema I may have ever scene. I was gaping throughout because of the unapologetic violence and the sheer amazingness of the action, choreography and camera work. It’s a prime example of many scenes which were darkly humorous in both tone and subject matter.

Technically the film is quite perfect. During the quicker movements of the fight scenes the camera was never too close or wide, and there wasn’t much of the incomprehensive blurring seen in most action movies in scenes of hand-to-hand combat. The effects, the editing, and the music – everything is superb. If not for the effective direction I don’t think the movie would have been as good. And yet, none of these elements overpowered the story or rose above it. All of it only served to heighten the comic book/spy thriller aspects of the film and served to compliment the story.

Morality issues such as excessive violence are not present, particularly after the major fight scenes. The heroes are bold and do what is necessary. In that regard the story maintains a lightheartedness and is not meant to be taken seriously. Whilst some deaths are (mostly) meaningful, no character becomes bogged down by them. Lack of emotional melodrama sees characters moving on to the next problem at hand.

Kingsman is a bizarre, head-spinning movie with memorable characters. Its essence and attitude rub off for a while. I left the hall with a smile on my face which stayed for some time, and the film spun around in my head for longer. It’s a multiple time watcher for me and I give it an extra half star for its novelty. However the film may not be to everyone’s taste, and those who dislike violence and outlandish films may want to skip it.

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Book and Movie Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

       3gem                        4gem

StardustGaimanbookcover       stardust-poster

The novel was first published in 1999, with illustrations by Charles Vess.

The tale begins in the English village of Wall, named after the long, old structure that separates the village from the magical land of Faerie. Guarded at all times, no one is allowed to cross the wall except on market day. Held in the forest every 9 years, hundreds of visitors come from all over the world and stalls with all sorts of inconceivable and magical things are opened for trade. Dunston Thorn ventures into Faerie for the first time. He’s a young man, about to be married. But in the market he comes across a beautiful slave girl from whom he buys a glass snowdrop. After spending the night with her, Dunston returns to his village and marries his fiancé. A few months later, a bundle comes for him from the other side of the wall: a baby.

18 years later, Tristran Thorn, a clerk at the local supply store, is in love with the village beauty, Victoria. One day they see a star fall into Faerie, and Tristran foolishly promises Victoria that he will bring her the star, in exchange for a promise to do anything he asks of her. Victoria agrees, not believing that he will actually do it. As Tristran prepares to cross to the other side, his father reveals his true origins to him. The guards at the wall also don’t try to stop him, because they know.

The story follows Tristran’s adventures in Faerie as he searches for and finds the star, who turns out to be a young woman. Other characters whose paths intertwine with their’s, are the royal family of Stormhold, three evil and ancient witches known as the Lillim, a solitary witch Semele, and others.

Will Tristan convince the star to accompany him back home? Will the heirs of Stormhold find the family heirloom and discover the next heir? And will the witches succeed in getting eternal youth and immortality again?

Stardust is very different from Coraline and Nevewhere – lighter. Gaiman’s world building is beautiful with good imagery. The writing, as expected, is very imaginative and a little mysterious. The description of Faerie, especially the market is wonderful. The story is charming, with little things connecting together. It’s fun to see how the different players have their own agendas, and how each one has a part to play in the others’ story. Overall the book is nice, with a dreamy, otherworldly feel to it. I think that is what makes the book special.

However, the sexual and violent scenes are sudden and very jarring. The abrupt changes in the writing during these scenes throws one off. In contrast, the relationship of Tristan and Yvainne lacks all emotion. You don’t feel anything for them, there’s no segue in their relationship. Yvainne is more of a cardboard cutout with no personality. It seemed to me that Tristan and Yvainne have deliberately been separated from the intensity evident in the other scenes. As if their lives and love are not supposed to be carnal and violent.

The resolution in the end without the anticipated fight was surprising, but also disappointing, especially after all the violence and dogged pursuits throughout the book. And Lady Una turned out to be a very dis-likable character, unlike how I thought she’d be. The ending was unexpected and sad – a tad disappointing. I was hoping for more. 

The film was released in 2007. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service), written with Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Kingsman: The Secret Service). It stars an ensemble cast; Charlie Cox, Ben Barnes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Clare Danes, Robert DeNiro, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Melanie Hill, Peter O’Toole, Ian McKellen, Henry Cavill and others.

I had seen the movie years before reading the book, and did not anticipate liking the movie more. There are many movies, which are as good as their literary origins, but for me, this would be the first time that a book did not live up to its film.

The movie is romantic where the book isn’t. It provides the transition from hate to love, to an extent, which the book failed at. The characters are well fleshed out, detailed, and hence very enjoyable. The casting is well done: I especially loved Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro and Clare Danes.

The parts of the movie, basically the foundation, which are true to the book have been done well. And the parts which differ are equally good. DeNiro’s character has been much expanded. From being a side character with barely a presence, the filmmakers have given him a major chunk in the movie, with a twist. It’s not unpleasant, rather the source of most fun. The lack of action in the end of the book is, naturally, pursued to its end in the movie. The story has been made audience friendly.

There’s plenty of suspense and laughs, with a solid plot and good acting, making Stardust an enjoyable watch.