Before Covid, movie theaters were just beginning to offer reclining comfy assigned seating to see films like The King’s Man. I recall paying a premium for these select theaters and thinking what a nice improvement, except for some individuals going a bit too far by bringing comforters into the theater.
These days such seating is a ubiquitous pleasure indeed. No more showing up thirty minutes early to grab center seats in the middle orchestra only to suffer commercials leading up to fifteen minutes of previews at showtime.
Looking back, I almost miss the lines around the block and one-frame flashes of soft drinks and hot dogs that supposedly triggered subconscious urges for junk food. Most theater seats did not decline, and arriving late meant a stiff neck in the front row or no seat at all.
I do, however, miss the old drive-in with the parking lot humps and metal speaker hanging on my window. Years before, the old man and mom used to pile us into the station wagon with pillows and blankets, pajamas, chips, and sandwiches for what was an exciting Saturday night with the family.
If you haven’t attended a movie in a while, treat yourself and take advantage of today’s comfort accouterments to enjoy the latest film that fits your fancy. Hotdogs have evolved into flatbread pizza, but overall the food tastes about the same but costs a bit more.
This King’s Man prequel features the marvelous Ralph Fiennes as Orlando Oxford, who you’ve seen in films like Schindler’s List, The English Patient, the Harry Potter series, and in at least three 007 films. The cast includes Harris Dickinson (Conrad Oxford), Gemma Arterton (Polly), Djimon Hounsou (Shola), and Matthew Goode (Morton).
My initial impressions stem in part from my recent disappointment with the latest Bond franchise. The King’s Man satisfies American admiration for the fantasy of English lore, heroes, panache, swordplay, savoir-faire, spies, crisp diction, and intrigue. It heralds hand-crafted tailored suits from London’s Savile Row, magnificent ancient estates with grand halls, libraries, secret passageways, drawing rooms, stables, ornate flasks of Macallan malt whisky, and circular driveways paved with crunchy gravel for entry of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Handsome, urbane Lords and Ladies, blackmail, and poison abound.
In this film, director Matthew Vaughn gives us all this and more. The storyline traverses British history from the Boer wars between the Dutch and Brits in South Africa, events leading to and through The Great War, and glimpses into World War II (and a likely sequel). Secretive evil-doers lurk along the way, some famous like the mysterious Russian mystic Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), spy Mata Hari, or Vladimir Lenin and his Russian Revolution that ends the Tzars. We peer into the curious lives of the three regally dressed cousins ruling England, Russia, and Austria, and witness the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. We discover that the leader responsible for many of the problems encountered originated closer to home than expected, and I think his accent gave it away.
Initially, the tragedy of the opening scenes seemed to create an unnecessary discomfort; however, it was purposeful in propelling Fiennes’ Orlando Oxford character into the leadership of a secret international organization of do-good spies who serve as butlers and maids to save the world – “invisible” people hiding in plain sight. How novel to suggest we cannot trust spy agencies run by politicians and governments.
Outstanding orchestral film score by Matthew Margeson. Marvelous photography, sets, costumes, special effects, and Ralph Fiennes moving like an acrobat. Don’t leave until after the credits.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Producer: Matthew Vaughn, David Reid, Adam Bohling
Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajduse