Director: Matthew Vaughn

Runtime: 130 Mins

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, and Charles Dance

Synopsis: As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them. Discover the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency in “The King’s Man.”


English film director, producer, and screenwriter, Matthew Vaughn [Layer Cake (2004), Stardust (2007), Kick-Ass (2010), X-Men: First Class (2011), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)] has now produced, co-written, and directed its prequel.

The King’s Man, which takes place before the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, chronicles the origin of the Kingsman agency. It begins in 1902 in South Africa. Duke Orlando Oxford [a strong central performance from Ralph Fiennes] and his wife and young son, Conrad, travel there on a diplomatic mission, only to be ambushed. Orlando’s leg is wounded, and his wife is killed. He agrees to her dying wish to keep their son away from violence forevermore

A few years later, a mysterious villain assembles a crew of the most evil men on earth, including Grigori “The Mad Monk” Rasputin [a barnstorming performance from Rhys Ifans] and starts executing global plans to control WWI and rule the world. At home, a grown-up Conrad (Harris Dickinson) wants to enlist in the army, but Orlando encourages a more non-violent approach: spying and trading information, with help from faithful assistants Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), in an attempt to end the war.

Nevertheless, The King’s Man has plenty of fights culminating in a deadly showdown with the megalomaniac mastermind himself on top of an impossibly high, impossibly dangerous mountain plateau.

However, the film’s perspective on history and literature might surprise you and not be exactly as you learned at school.

In a highly amusing twist, Tom Hollander plays all three of the cousins, King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas.

Vladimir Lenin and Mata Hari also show up in the mix, and Ifans’ Rasputin’s Rasputin is a totally unpredictable creation who lends energy to the film – especially in his balletic fight scene during a lavish Christmas ball.

Among its clever, history-subverting ideas and some exciting and white-knuckle action sequences, prepare to discover that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, the death of Lord Kitchener in 1916 and the Russian Revolution in 1917 were all the fault of a single mad egomaniac; also a famous Wilfred Owen poem is suddenly re-attributed to Joseph Conrad for authorship in the film.

More serious deficits are the scenes of WW1, the trenches and no man’s land and the war’s aftermath which are attempts to underline the film’s non-violence theme but which could be seen as in bad taste and trivialising.

With an excellent ensemble cast and stand out performances from Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans,The King’s Man is an entertaining enough diversion, with the strange premise that the organisation had its origins to battle a mad Scottish nationalist during the First World War

Stick around for the post credits coda to see where the ‘Kingsman’ franchise is headed next.

In cinemas

Images courtesy of: 20th Century Studios