Film blends World War I history with exciting fiction
“The King’s Man” won’t go down as the best prequel of all time, but it’s a fun adventure that works well with the rest of the spy movie franchise.
What’s more, it’s an outstanding film that could stand independent of the franchise. Viewers who may never have heard of “The King’s Men” could enjoy this one.
And fans of the franchise will enjoy the Easter eggs connecting this film with “The King’s Men.” In addition, history buffs will like the movie’s incorporation of World War I and the downfall of Russia’s last czar into the plot.
Ralph Fiennes’ fans will be pleased too. The star does a great job of playing the reluctant hero, a former army officer who became a pacifist after witnessing the horrors of war.
But when his world and everyone else’s worlds are turned upside down, he realizes he must fight to save the day.
Mr. Fiennes stars as Orlando, the Duke of Oxford, who visits a concentration camp in South Africa with his wife Emily and their young son Conrad on a mission of mercy for the prisoners. Tragedy strikes, and that sets the stage for much of the plot.
Conrad (Harris Dickinson) grows up and wants to become a soldier. His dad keeps him out of the armed forces, but recruits him to help the world in a different way. That leads to a story that ties together the assassination that started World War I, the communist takeover of Russia (and the downfall of Czar Nicholas), the German threat to Britain and President Woodrow Wilson’s decision about whether to commit U.S. forces to fight in World War I.
In the midst of all this is a rogue villain, who gathers together his team and tries to manipulate world leaders and events.
The story features colorful characters and great action, and the film is much like a classic James Bond film from the Sean Connery era. (Coincidentally, Mr. Fiennes played M in the recent Bond movies starring Daniel Craig.)
Blending history and fiction is a longtime narrative tradition that works well.
The film also has a great cast and intriguing characters. One of the most interesting ones is Polly Wilkins (Gemma Arteton), who appears to be Orlando’s top domestic servant but actually is a top leader in his rogue, pre-Kingman spy agency. She also serves as the duke’s conscience.
Another interesting character is a colorful henchman, but the details about him won’t be spoiled here.
Without a doubt, if you love classic spy movies (again, more in the Sean Connery vein than Daniel Craig), you’ll love “The King’s Man.” Director Matthew Vaughn captures all the fun and blends it with emotion and heroism.
And if you like the previous “King’s Men” movies, you’ll find how it all began in this movie, right down to the use of the tailor shop and King Arthur-era code names.