One of the most fun movies from 2014 makes the cut and is among the first wave of 4k Ultra HD discs to hit the home theater market: Kingsman: The Secret Service. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, and Samuel Jackson, the film takes the spy movies that we loved from the 60's and updates them for a new generation. The 4K disc looks and sounds superb too, which makes this worth a purchase.
Based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic The Secret Service published by Marvel's imprint Icon, Kingsman is the story of Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), a fatherless, lower-class London youth with no prospects. His mother has taken up with the head of the local thugs, a small-time crook named Dean (Geoff Bell) who is abusive to her and Eggsy, but what can the young man do?
His situation changes when Eggsy is arrested and used a literal 'get out of jail free' card that Harry Hart (Colin Firth) gave him years ago upon the death of his father. The police, much to their chagrin, are ordered to let him go, and outside of the station an impeccably dressed Hart is waiting for him. The pair retire to a local pub where Harry reveals that Eggsy's father died while on a mission for a top-secret, highly trained spy organization, The Kingsman. Unwin is finding it all a little hard to believe until a group of Dean's thugs, mad at the lad for the incident that caused his arrest, enter the bar and order Hart to leave so they can pummel the Eggsy in peace. Harry gets up, walks to the door and locks it. He then takes out the group without breaking a sweat.
After a minor test, Harry puts forth Eggsy's name, over the objections of his boss Chester (Michael Caine), to go through the rigorous Kingsman training to replace a member lost in the line of duty. The working-class youth is thrown into a deadly training program with a group of other recruits, all from upper-class backgrounds, and it's not clear if any of them will survive.
The other plot line of the film involves a case the Kingsman are working involving a researcher who was kidnapped, but then reappears unexpectedly unharmed. It seems that several prominent officials and scientists have also disappeared only to return after a short amount of time, and Harry traces the trail back to an incredibly wealthy tech giant, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine has come up with an audacious plan to fix all of the problems in the world. The only catch is that it involves killing off most of humanity.
This movie is a nice homage to the spy movies and TV shows of the 60's. It takes all the elements that we've come to love and updated them for a new century. The Kingsman have the cool gadgets that James Bond employed along with the style and elan of John Steed (from The Avengers). And, of course, there's a larger-than-life villain with a grand scheme to damage the world. To that mix they've added a 21st Century spin: the fight scenes are more intricate and dynamic (and they that owe more to The Matrix than Goldfinger), the humor comes more frequently, and the protagonist is more relatable to millennials. The result is a fun and exciting movie.
Colin Firth fills his role wonderfully, giving the agent confidence and style that harken back to the movie spies of old while still being someone distinct and different. The person in the film who looked like they were having the most fun however was Samuel L. Jackson. He made Valentine such a wonderful-over-the-top villain with a pronounced lisp-like speech pattern that it's hard not to smile while his character is on the screen.
The only real flaw with the film is that it changes tone a bit halfway though. The first part is standard spy-genre stuff, setting up the plot of the second half with Eggsy training and Harry putting the pieces together. There's a good amount of humor and some exciting fist-fights too. The second part gets more violent, starting with a massacre at a church, which doesn't mesh well with the earlier, more light-hearted, first half. It's a pretty jarring transition, which isn't really telegraphed, and it can leave some viewers, my wife included, with a bad taste. This seems to be a stylistic choice of director Matthew Vaughn, who had the same problem Kick-Ass, and does not ruin the film, it just turns it into a different beast.
The Ultra HD Disc:
This release comes with both a 4K Ultra HD disc and a Blu-ray disc in a single-width keepcase.
Like the many of the other first wave 4K UHD titles, this movie was sourced from a 2K master (also used for the Blu-ray disc) that was then upconverted. Even so, this disc is a distinct improvement over the Blu-ray release. The colors really make the movie more eye-catching and the level of detail is vastly improved. The pores on faces and motes of dust floating in the air can be seen with much more clarity. The white, snow covered mountains at the end of the film are bright and vivid, and the few scenes that take place in space are just as impressive with the blacks being dark and inky. Overall, this is a very nice looking disc and early adopters of the format will be happy with the results, even if it is upconverted.
The movie arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, but like Fox's other first wave releases, there is not a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X track available. Even without the newest audio on the disc, the movie still sounds excellent. The large battles sequences pack a sonic wallop that adds a lot to the film, but the more quite scenes are also well thought out, and their lack of a lot of audio activity acts as a good counterpoint to the more dynamic scenes. The background music comes through clearly and at an appropriate level, and the dialog is likewise clean and clear. I can't find anything to complain about on the audio side.
There are no extras included on the 4k UHD disc.