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‘The King’s Man’ Wins Royally As The Latest Film In The ‘Kingsman’ Franchise – Review

Director and screenwriter Matthew Vaughn brings audiences back to the Kingsman universe with the prequel, The King’s Man. Ralph Fiennes, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode and Harris Dickinson round out an ensemble cast of a film that is equal parts spy thriller, war epic, and coming-of-age film. This prequel shines in its ability to mix heartfelt character connection, stylish filming, and quick pacing with high-octane action scenes to match. 

The King’s Man introduces viewers to England’s Orlando Oxford (Fiennes) and his son Conrad (Dickinson), along with Shola (Hounsou) and Polly (Arterton), who work for the Oxfords. As tensions rise in Europe, England, Germany, and Russia find themselves at the epicenter of a war slated to annihilate millions. Orlando is faced with balancing the wishes of his son, who desperately wants to dedicate his life to the war efforts on the frontline, and strategic espionage with Shola and Polly to thwart some of Europe’s most diabolical leaders. 

The King's Man - Still
Harris Dickinson as Conrad and Ralph Fiennes as Orlando Oxford in The King’s Man. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

The King’s Man franchise is known for its hyperactive action scenes, stylish clothing and cheeky dialogue. The third installment in this series feels vastly different. At the heart of it, the movie is part coming-of-age war epic and spy film. The different storylines within The King’s Man each convey a different tone. 

Where the first movie feels frenetic and the second loses momentum, this third film tries to ground itself within these different movie themes. Although the film is sort of a chameleon, the depth it provides creates a stronger connection between various characters – particularly Fiennes and Dickinson’s characters.  

There may be new themes pumping through this installment, but the action continues to deliver high-octane scenes. Many of the actors, like Fiennes, Dickinson, and Goode hold their own, but the clear standouts are Hounsou and Ifans. Their characters, Shola and Rasputin, respectively, turn fighting into a dazzling dance, specifically with the fight scene with each other. 

Harris Dickinson as Conrad and Djimon Hounsou as Shola in The King’s Man. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Outside of this, however, Hounsou feels underused as a main cast member. But in regards to Ifans’ Rasputin, he creates a character who is eccentric, mysterious, comical, and brutish. His scenes between Fiennes straddle the line of comical and cringe, but ultimately make Ifans’ character incredibly memorable – especially when you consider his makeup transformation. 

In terms of the witty one-liners that embellish the franchise, they are reserved for Arterton’s Polly. She comes in smoothly to remind the cast and viewers of why she’s never to be messed with. As the lead woman within the film, Aterton’s Polly brings charming fierceness to The King’s Man that pairs well with her marksmanship abilities.  

Gemma Arterton as Polly in The King’s Man. (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

And though stylish suits filled with espionage gadgets aren’t at the center of this period spy movie, the makings of a gentleman are. This ties back to the previous films that focused on main character Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his development into a gentlemanly spy. However, in The King’s Man, becoming a gentleman is not outwardly talked about in a lengthy recruitment process or training situation. Rather, it’s expressed through stories and personal morals exhibited by the various characters. 

The reflection on what makes a gentleman typically resides between conversations between Orlando and Conrad. Additionally, discussions on their family’s imperialistic pursuits and ideology on engagement with their employees serve as a vehicle to highlight the wrongs of past Oxfords, establish a father-son bond between the pair, and give insight into how Orlando, Polly and Shola leaned into espionage. 

In all, the film is a much more enjoyable installment than the second film and deeper than the first one. Fans of the franchise will need to come with an open mind to embrace the third film’s more emotionally-ladened tone in order to enjoy it. When they do, they’ll be able to explore the makings of a gentleman and a spy. 

Rating: 8/10

The King’s Man hits theatres on December 22.

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