I will start with my conclusion because I want to be up front with my feelings about this movie. I loved this movie. I’m going to pay to see it again. That’s right folks, I am willing to put on an actual outfit, do my makeup, drive, pay cash I slaved at a desk to earn, turn off my phones, and sit still doing nothing but staring at a screen AGAIN just to get to see this movie a second time.
Spoilers below, darlings.
This movie is fresh. I assume the script was written by a group of immature, irreverent, intelligent people who long to escape from the demons of reality through outrageous violence and humor. Honestly, the worst parts of this movie for me were the violence and sexual humor. I know this was set up to be the other movie you could see on Valentine’s Day if you didn’t want to see Fifty Shades but they maybe could have been a little less male toned. The last 15ish minutes have a few fairly shocking sex jokes. But this is a kind of re-imagined, modern James Bond concept so I guess the frank approach to the sex aspect fits.
The fighting scenes are pretty hard to watch. They are hard to watch not just because of the amount of bodies and blatant mutilation but also because it was filmed in a less than pleasing manner. Have you noticed a trend in action films recently where the filming style sometimes leaves the impression that the camera is doing more combat moves than the actor? That was the style they used.
The saving grace for the violence was its distance. There was an aloofness in the mass murdering, a sense of it being automatic instead of human, an acknowledgement of the action without a reason for the audience to take issue with it. They didn’t kill a bunch of nice people we got to know. They killed the movie version of the WBC, some corrupt politicians, and many of the fiscal elite. And the violence is unrealistic enough that while you may recoil physically from it emotionally and mentally you stay with the movie.
This approach to the mass violence allows the few meaningful deaths to be even stronger than they normally would have been. These deaths had the same removed feeling, I didn’t feel like crying for them, but they felt heavy, important. In those moments I was detached enough emotionally to see the death, process it, and face the subtext without a lens. In those moments I saw little glimpses of humanity that I couldn’t escape and that the writers couldn’t help but acknowledge.
Colin Firth played a delightful Colin Firthy character. Seriously, at this point I doubt people know whether Colin Firth is really a proper, well-dressed, humourous, slightly uptight, well off Englishman or if he simply plays one every day of his public life. He made thick rimmed glasses and an umbrella seem amazingly high-tech and dapper. This is a man who doesn’t have to take every role that comes his way and we should be thankful he decided to take this one.
Two more men in the same boat in their careers added their talents to the movie bringing it a legitimacy and professional feel. Michael Caine barely did anything but sit the entire movie but he pushed action forwards effortlessly. Samuel L. Jackson had some of the best lines of the movie (both comically and subtextually) and he delivered them like the pro he is. It was a little hard to believe that he was a MIT genius with a fear of blood who wore what I think was a pair of Google glasses but he managed to tamp down his bada**ness enough to put on a convincing show that didn’t cause a problem for the movie as a whole.
Sophie Cookson was good in her role. She wasn’t a blow away breakout star. But she did a fine job with an excellent character. Sure, there were some cliché elements to her character (having a fear of heights she has to overcome to save the world) but there were two things they did with her character that I really liked. First, she didn’t succeed because she was a woman or because she overcome emotional issue but because she as a person was innately capable of being a killer. They didn’t back down. They gave her a dog to raise and then shoot and she did. And on top of that nobody pointed out that she overcome herself to do so. Rather, they acknowledged her as herself. Second, she did not end up with the lead male. There were moments I feared the writers would cave to convention and we would see a romance bloom. But it didn’t. If they succeeded in nothing else they can at least know that they did not allow the strong, talented, smart, independent, woman-in-a-man’s-profession girl to have a romantic subplot.
Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella is engaging. She also would not have been as good in the movie if she wasn’t playing a character that was so well-built but she really did a splendid job with a strange role. This character was a fairly straightforward right hand man with a delicious twist. Did we ever find out why she had amazing sword feet? No. Do I wish I could know her back story? Duh. Did the lack of any explanation influence my enjoyment of her in the film? Nope. Just buy into her character and enjoy the unique, well choreographed warrior.
Onto the main character. Eggsy is played by Taron Egerton. Obviously there were lines along the theme of, “Hi, I’m Eggsy.” “Iggy?” “No, Eggsy.” And while they didn’t have to name their character something so difficult for an American audience to wrap their vowels around at least they addressed it once and then breezed on knowing that it would take way more effort to get everyone on board than to get them to just accept it.
In the beginning I saw Taron as a young-looking, thuggy, attractive guy. I am not blind. I saw the value in his features, his body, and his voice. But he wasn’t my style and I thought I was safe. Then they did a makeover that puts those in 90s movies about nerdy girls becoming bombshells to shame. I now know my type is less based on a certain arrangement of good features and coloring and far more dependent on the presentation of the entity. Taron dressed in neon street style scores a meh. Taron in a tailored suit, shined shoes, coiffed hair, and glasses that he can take off for effect is exactly my style.
He is also not a bad actor. He too isn’t a shining star but he does a quality job with a well designed character. Occasionally his lack of polish and experience is evident but that can be forgiven because of his natural timing and expressive face.
Now, there is one important actor that I have not gushed about. He plays Merlin. He is a face that is familiar to me and hopefully to you. And he was perfectly at home in his role. Know that he was a perfectly constructed bridge between the familiar faces of film powerhouses and new gems that could still use some polish. He balanced the strong character he played with his own power. His name is Mark Strong and he is one of my favorite actors. Instead of telling you why you should put in the effort to remember this man’s name I will leave you with this and a promise to write an entire article about the man.
Besides having strong characters this movie also has well-managed moments where the jokes and the violence and the veil of the plot are peeled away leaving a dark acknowledgement staring out at you. I am torn between giving details to explain and letting you find out yourself if you are able. For people who struggle to mask and cope with a stark view of the world brought on by disillusionment, and I bet the writers fall into this group, there are moments when you wish the villain wasn’t quite so right in his logic.
Verdict: While this movie wasn’t a masterpiece it was fresh, enjoyable, and worth seeing again. It was fun to watch but it also left a weight on my mind that I had to understand and deal with. If you disagree I respect your opinion but you will not change my mind. This movie will be added to my small collection of purchased films. It has earned my respect. And it isn’t a reboot or a continuation of a series in a parallel universe so maybe you will see something you have never seen done before.
Social Cues: Be aware that this movie probably isn’t for children…or grandparents. But who needs to sit in the dark with a friend when you could sit in the dark with this movie?