Kingsman: The Golden Circle Re-View
The first Kingsman movie The Secret Service was a very good film. It also functioned as a very good James Bond/Harry Palmer pastiche full of Mark Millarisms. However it was a great film in its own right. The problem is that it is an origin story and lot of its freshness and sense of discovery is tied to that. So when you have a follow up a lot of that sense of discovery will disappear. Tomorrow Never Dies doesn’t feel as impactful as Casino Royale for example. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is just going on another mission just like James Bond always goes on another mission.
The Golden Circle is still a good film despite what you may have heard. I don’t like to refer to other reviews for contrast unless there is a good reason. I’ve seen a lot of critics saying the film doesn’t work quite as well because Eggsy doesn’t have an arc. So that is where I shall begin in earnest.
Eggsy does in fact have an arc. We begin the film as he’s struggling with the long term nature of his relationship with Tilde, the Princess of Sweden, begun in the last movie. His job challenges his relationship given he may have to seduce targets and so on. It also takes up a lot of time and provides high-stress and potential death. Throughout the movie Eggsy’s loyalties to mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) are also challenged after his ‘resurrection’. Eggsy is being pulled between his job and his personal life at every level and even suffers a few tragedies in the latter. The nature of his life also results in some quirky juxtaposed lifestyles. One moment he’s a spy, the next he’s having dinner in a Swedish palace and then he’s hanging with his friends in an estate. It’s hilarious when all three corners of his life start to collide. Eggsy learns over the course of the film to rectify the various sides of his life and even makes a few hard choices about them. That’s his arc.
All this is happening with the backdrop of a frenetic action-spy movie. The opening car chase despite being CGI heavy is better than any in recent memory, including Baby Driver. The shoot outs are as beautifully staged as they were in the first films. And the movie is inventive with the gadgets of both the Kingsmen and the Statesmen. The final assault on the villain’s lair is wonderful and it’s sad when it ends. It’s all very digital and CG based action and editing, but it’s better executed than it was in the first film and it essentially becomes a style onto itself.
The Golden Circle clearly doesn’t have much access to its US cast. Many of them are only seen in small pockets in only a handful of rooms. However you can only notice this if you go looking to notice this. Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum try to steal every scene they’re in. Julianne Moore is the real star of the show (except Taron Egerton) and she manages to imbue a soccer mom type with disturbing menace. Don’t eat her homemade burgers is all I’m saying. (There is also an extended cameo that is just so great…)
Mark Strong and Pedro Pascal also get a chance to flex both comedic and dramatic muscles. Mark Strong’s Merlin gets a moment that combines pure pathos with tragic comedy and it is beautiful. The movie certainly isn’t as funny as the first and it gets sluggish in the middle, but it is as fun as the first movie and wrangles more than a few tears from its audience. There is some slightly bad treatment of returning characters, especially Roxy, that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Ultimately The Golden Circle isn’t as good as The Secret Service, but it is a different enough beast that it doesn’t matter how it compares. It’s fun, funny, exciting, upsetting and the main character does get to learn and grow. The movie actually ends on Eggsy doing something in his personal life even the Bond franchise hasn’t committed to beyond one sequence.