In today’s modren movie-making age, there are very, very few movies worth your time and money. Almost the entire corpus of action films released into cinemas and streaming services this year consisted of a horribly wearying, tedious, and profoundly stupid series of woke sermonising, narrated by the High Priests of Hollyweird. Movies like The Eternals were all about diversity, to a genuinely painful degree, while other action films like Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, or Black Widow, were just boring, bland, badly written, and downright infuriating in their lack of respect for the source material.
Put simply, mass entertainment media in 2021 was all about getting out THE MESSAGE, as our drunken Scottish friend would put it, and almost every action movie of the year had to obey that rule. Which is why most of them were epic commercial failures, as well as completely void of any artistic merit.
The King’s Man is an emphatic, glorious, brilliant, magnificent, wonderful exception to that rule.
There is very little by way of woke crassness and stupidity in this film, though some amount of it is, in this current era, unavoidable. But the filmmakers have done a very great deal to work what little wokeness is in the movie, into a solid, coherent, interesting, and genuinely fun movie.
The Legend of Kingsman
If you have seen the original film, and/or its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, then you have some idea what to expect. If you haven’t seen the original, GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW. I am not joking when I say that it is one of the greatest red-pill films ever made – I missed out on seeing it in theatres, to my intense regret, because when I finally did get around to seeing it, I couldn’t stop raving about it.
The second film in the series wasn’t quite as good, in my opinion – somehow it lacked some of the genuine warmth and character of the original, and some of the action set-pieces were just absurdly over-the-top, even for this film series. But it was still a damned good movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.
This film takes everything that made the original so great, and creates a tightly linked historical foundation for ALL of it – and I do mean all. I have seen the original movie many times, because it’s simply so bloody good, and I can quote practically chapter-and-verse from some of the best lines in it.
So let’s dive straight into The King’s Man.
The Storm Nexus
Now, this article WILL contain lots of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, skip this section. Better yet, just skip the article entirely, go watch the movie, and come back and tell me whether I got it right.
LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
The film starts out in South Africa in the early 20th Century, where General Kitchener has imprisoned Boers in those infamous, and awful, early concentration camps. Orlando, the Duke of Oxford, his wife, Emily, and his young son, Conrad, visit the camp as part of a Red Cross mercy mission, along with Oxford’s loyal Black manservant, Shola. There, terrible tragedy strikes as Emily is slain by a Boer sniper before Shola is able to dispatch the man.
Years later, having raised Conrad as a stern but loving single father, Orlando looks with grim foreboding as the clouds of war gather over Europe. It is the eve of the Great War, and Orlando is given a mission by his old friend, Lord General Kitchener, to head to Serbia to protect one Franz Ferdinand. You may recognise the name – that would be Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose murder at the hands of Serbian ultra-nationalist Gavrilo Princip precipitated the Great War itself.
Orlando and his son successfully defend the Archduke against the first assassination attempt, but fail to prevent Princip from carrying out his mission – which, as we learn through the movie, is part of a sinister and terrible plot by a shadowy cabal to take the world to war, controlled by an enigmatic figure known only as “The Shepherd”. All we know about that man is that he is a Scot, and he genuinely hates the European world order.
Conrad, determined to do his duty for King and country, wants to sign up to fight, but Orlando, a committed pacifist who swore a vow to himself never to kill again, and another to his late wife to protect their son, is obdurate in his refusal to grant permission and blessings. Seeing that he can no longer protect his son without breaking his vow to himself, Orlando brings Conrad into an elaborate intelligence web that he has woven behind the scenes, involving household staff for the world’s most powerful and influential players.
Taking up a mission to keep Russia in the Great War, they travel to the Motherland to kill none other than Grigory Rasputin – played with downright maniacal brilliance by Rhys Ifans – and eventually succeed. Conrad, who turns 19 at the end of that mission, then enlists in the British Army, very much against his father’s wishes. Orlando surreptitiously tries to keep Conrad safe with the help of his friend and sovereign, King George, but his meddling forces Conrad to take matters into his own hands and go “under cover” as an enlisted man within the famed Black Watch.
From there the action switches to the Western Front, where Conrad demonstrates his fighting skills, courage, and strength of character- only to lose his life in a terrible, tragic misunderstanding. A devastated Orlando must find the strength and will to carry on in the wake of unbearable tragedy, to become the man that his son could have been.
END OF SPOILERS (Well, more or less)
Red-Pill to the Core
This film is everything that you could possibly want from an action film. It is PACKED with brilliant action sequences, some of which will make you sit up and go, “how the HELL did they film that?!?!?”
It is also extremely violent. This is not a film for people looking for nice, clean, sanitised modren Devil Mouse or M-She-U films, where nobody ever really loses anything, and where there is no character development of any kind. This is a movie filled with tragedy and horrendous loss of life, displayed in the most graphic and barbaric terms – the No-Man’s Land H2H combat set-piece, in particular, is both brilliant and appalling, especially in the way that it ends.
Most importantly, though, it contains so much red-pill wisdom that you can practically feel it hitting you in the face.
You can see just how important a father’s love, strength, approval, and guidance are to the development of young men. You watch Conrad develop from a promising but untested yoot, into a MAN, before his tragic and terribly premature death. His courage and determination to do his duty, and his horrified realisation of what the cost of duty can be, is both inspiring and sobering to watch.
Many of the best ideas from the original Kingsman are fleshed out very well here, through sayings and phrases that link directly to that movie. For instance: the phrase, “Oxfords, not brogues”, from the original film, gets its own origin story and background in this one. So too does the whole “Manners Maketh Man” line. And so does the origin story of the Kingsman agency – there’s even a great subtle reference to the Statesman agency, the American counterpart from the second film, in the third act of the movie.
Perhaps the best line in the film, though, is unique to it – “reputation is what people think of you; character is what you are”. This dovetails beautifully with what Lancelot told Eggsy in the first movie, about how becoming a gentleman has nothing to do with your circumstances at birth, and everything to do with who you are inside. You simply don’t get much more red-pilled than that – and the way that Orlando uses that phrase, and demonstrates it in real life, is a lesson for all men to learn. Your reputation can often allow you to mask your true intentions and activities, so that you can demonstrate your character when it really matters.
Not Woke, Not Broke
The lack of any real wokeness in this film is refreshing, to say the least, especially given how much woke bullshit gets rammed into most Hollyweird films these days.
Djimon Hounsou shines as Shola, but he is very clearly a supporting Bravo character, absolutely loyal to his Alpha (Orlando), without ever being some sort of preachy Wokandan character that tries to tell people to “do better” with respect to race relations. He will do anything for his lord, except jump out of an aeroplane with a parachute – but his combat skills and dogged, absolute loyalty are proof of a well-written, well-thought-out character.
Gemma Arterton can be pretty annoying in many of her movies, but in this one, she is a crack shot and a good code-breaker, without ever once being shown as some sort of ridiculously overpowered Mary Sue. She encounters difficulties and trauma of her own, and shows actual growth and maturity in her character. This is not someone who can outfight a man – this is someone who uses her own unique skills and talents to complement those of a broader team.
Put simply, this movie is the perfect antidote to awful, lecturing, posturing, preaching, sneering idiocies like The Eternals, or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, or Black Widow.
Needless to say, the critics HATE this movie, in part for those very reasons. The Black guy stays the loyal servant, the sassy woman isn’t an absolutely perfect all-conquering heroine, and the White master Alpha wins in the end. (Oops. Sorry. I might have given that away a bit.) As you can see from the Rotten Tomatoes contrast between critic and viewer scores, the critics think it’s a bad movie, but audiences absolutely love it.
So Why Isn’t It Crushing?!?!
The one thing that I don’t understand about this film is, why isn’t it outperforming at the box office?
Part of this has to do with timing. The King’s Man had the misfortune to be released right around the same time as Spider-Man: No Way Home, and that has turned into a GIGANTIC box-office monster. That film gave fans EXACTLY what they’ve been asking for, in a simple, easy-to-digest, well-crafted package that brought back plenty of great nostalgia kicks, and it’s crossed a BILLION DOLLARS in revenues worldwide. (Incidentally, that is more proof, if any were ever needed, that if you stop with the woke bullshit and just give people what they want, they will reward you.)
Another part of it has to do with the fact that we don’t have the international data yet. In the UK, and in much of the rest of the world, the film was only released on Boxing Day (Dec 26), so we haven’t gotten the data yet. All I can say is that, when I went to watch the movie on the night it was released, the theatre was very nearly completely full, and people walked out of that theatre genuinely buzzing about how great the film was.
Possibly the biggest thing holding this film back is, again, related to timing. It was supposed to be released last year. We all know what happened – the Chinese Chinkin’ Pox got right properly in the way of any decent theatrical releases. This film is over a year delayed in terms of release, and that has to be acting against it.
On top of that, this film had the great misfortune to be released right when the Moronica Strain made landfall and kept people away from movie theatres. From what I can see, people are being very picky about what they go to see in theatres, not just because they want to watch a good movie, but also because they want to minimise their exposure to other people.
None of this changes the fact that this movie is criminally underrated. I walked out of the theatre absolutely buzzing about what I had seen, with a HUGE grin on my face. This film treats its source material, canon, characters, and story with real respect. There is tremendous heart and soul to this film. And, while it does play fast and loose with historical accuracy in places, you can’t really fault it for that, simply because the results are so epic.
Conclusion – Gentlemanly Steel
This film is simply awesome. You need to go see it. Bring your brothers, sons, and male cousins to see it too. It is full of brilliantly masculine red-pill beef, without any over-the-top machismo. It is funny without being sarcastic, tragic without being farcical or depressing, heartwarming without being cheesy, well-written, well-executed, well-directed, and superbly acted, especially by Ralph Fiennes.
We have to give special credit to the latter, actually. He is a genuinely brilliant actor. This man can pull off a psychopathic killer in Red Dragon, a horribly wounded pilot in The English Patient, the character of M in SkyFall, and God only knows how many other superb characters. He plays the role of Orlando here with deftness and care, never taking himself too seriously, but always giving it 100% and treating the source material – as ridiculous as it can sometimes be – with absolute respect.
He is simply great. The whole film is packed full of fantastic performances, but Fiennes as Orlando is something special.
Go see this movie. Bring your family along and make a day of it. Support this film, so that we can get another one. It is WELL worth the effort.