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Proto-Bond The King's Man will leave you shaken and stirred

REVIEW: The King's Man (15)

Ralph Fiennes stars in this World War One-set prequel to the hit 'Kingsman' movies, which is the third in the series of Mark Millar's and Dave Gibbons' comic book adaptations.

In true comics style, it's the origin story of the mysterious intelligence agency which is sort of Savile Row meets proto-Bond, with a dash of ultraviolence, satire and swearing.

Given that Fiennes is an established part of the 007 set-up (as 'M') it's surely no accident that he's cast as The King's Man's protagonist? Anyway, he does a fine job of anchoring the movie as an aristocrat (Orlando Oxford) and former soldier-turned-pacifist.

Ralph Fiennes stars in 'The King's Man', the prequel to the hit 'Kingsman' movies.
Ralph Fiennes stars in 'The King's Man', the prequel to the hit 'Kingsman' movies.

When a shadowy secret society led by The Shepherd helps to trigger WW1, Fiennes' son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) is eager to join the British Army and show his dad he's also keen to 'do his bit', but father is desperate to prevent personal slaughter from mirroring the wider geopolitical one by protecting his boy and so reluctantly but dutifully hurls his efforts into The King's Man organisation. Orlando's predicament is also complicated by past family tragedy.

As we see, much derring-do results from the behind scenes work of The King's Man agency, a clever network of domestic servants led by Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou).

They encounter many historic figures including Russian monk Rasputin, a sleazily brilliant Rhys Ifans; many of whom are led by this film's 'Blofeld', The Shepherd; while Tom Hollander deftly plays three heads of state who are cousins: the English King George, Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm and Russia's Tsar.

The King's Man.
The King's Man.

The Shepherd is always shown in shadow. All we know that he's balding and has a Scottish accent. Now, Millar fell out some time 20 years ago with then-writing partner Grant Morrison, who is (a) bald and (b) Scottish. Hmmm...

The King's Man is easily the most enjoyable of the trilogy, maybe because the period setting helps to distance the viewer and aids suspension of disbelief.

Peter Woodhouse

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