Ralph Fiennes brings his fine acting skills to the latest installment in the Kingsman film franchise. The King’s Man (2021) is a prequel to the first two films, giving us an imaginative if outlandish take on the events leading to WWI.
In this liberally reconstructed version of history, an evil organization headquartered in a Scottish cashmere factory plots to set the great powers of Europe against one another. Opposing this dastardly plan is Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Fiennes).
Dioramas are sprinkled throughout The King’s Man, but unfortunately, they always take the form of set dressing relegated to the background. A few appear early in the film, and one more, pictured above, surfaces about halfway through. The dioramas are never on screen for more than a few brief moments, and are either too far away or too out of focus to discern with clarity. I found myself wishing there had been an opportunity to get a good look at them.
One can’t help but compare this film to recent Bond flicks, as Fiennes seems to be giving us a more sprightly variation of his role as ‘M.’ Gemma Arterton, who plays his maid, appeared in a recent Bond film (Quantum of Solace) as well. Even the villains seem to be borrowed from the world of 007: they sit around a large conference table smirking fiendishly at one another and sport special rings just like their Spectre counterparts.
While the first two films in the Kingsman franchise were firmly planted in the action comedy genre, The King’s Man is an incongruent blend of action, comedy, and sombre drama. It never seems to find a consistent tone and gives the impression that it was patched together by a committee. If you spent a day at a wedding and left in the middle of the festivities to attend a funeral, you’d experience the same emotional inconsistency that you get watching this film.
The worst part is the ending, which treats the entry of the U.S. into WWI as something to be celebrated. This turning point in the war was orchestrated by British and American bankers who profited from the bloodshed. Thus the slaughter in Europe dragged on for another year and a half, and a small group of oligarchs succeeded in increasing their personal wealth beyond their wildest dreams.