Classism Among Themes in ‘Kingsman’

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia

“Manners maketh man,” Harry (Colin Firth) says before initiating a brutal, yet stylish, action scene. The combination of stylized action, spy movie parody and genuine human characters, as reflected by the contrast in this scene, is what makes “Kingsman” a truly unforgettable movie. “Kingsman,” much like Matthew Vaughn’s previous film “Kick-Ass,” deftly balances old Bond movie style with humanizing elements and some simple social commentary.

The film’s plot surrounds the independent spy agency, The Kingsman, going up against Richmond Valentine played by Samuel L. Jackson, whose desire is to "solve" the threat posed by climate change by committing mass genocide of the world’s population.

The film’s basic premise and the main protagonists being British spies seem to pay tribute to spy films of yesteryear via homages and fourth wall jokes. However, the film modernizes this classic film formula through its social commentary and characters. All of the characters are wonderful, yet unlike in the old spy films they parody, all of them remain distinctly human. From Eggsy’s (Alex Nikolov) rough lower class upbringing, to Valentine’s aversion to violence, these elements help the audience relate to the characters without making the film completely down-to-earth and serious like current spy movies. Samuel L. Jackson is a particular highlight due to his charisma and parody of tech billionaires like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

The film is no slouch in the social commentary department, specifically in the areas of classism and changing ideals between the generations. Eggsy’s interactions with those of higher class and stature in society show the ridiculousness of classism and point to the misinformed social stigma attached to the lower class. His transformation from poor kid to all-around badass English gentleman delivers the final blow to the film's anti-classism message.

Tying into this idea is the conflict between the Kingsman of different generations, including Arthur, played by Michael Caine, who is a firm believer that one should stay in one’s place, Harry, who believes that one can rise through the ranks via the social ladder and Eggsy who believes in the ridiculousness of classes in general and advocates their eradication.

The film executes this theme quite well; however, it could have been improved if the film added 15 minutes to flesh out its female characters. Although Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) gives a particularly strong performance, this film lacks a female presence, and its lack poses a missed opportunity for the film to highlight its themes.

On a simpler note, the action scenes are incredible, with the tendency to slow and speed up to give the illusion of reading from panel to panel, paying respect to the graphic novel the film is adapting. Overall “Kingsman” is fantastic and stands as being an early contender for best action film of 2015.