Review of “The King’s Man” (2021)

trailer from YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie came by way of recommendation the dearly beloved and I watched: The Critical Drinker. He sugarcoated nothing. I do have warn anyone turning to his channel, he’s got a bit of a pottymouth. While his evaluations are frank, they’re more thoughtful than, “This sucks, man.” And they’re funny. I found little to disagree with him.


In 1902, during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the (fictional) Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a Red Cross worker, arrives at a concentration camp run by his friend, Kitchener (Charles Dance). With him are his wife Emily (Alexandra Maria Lara) and his young son Conrad (Alexander Shaw). While Conrad waits in the buggy with the servant Shola (Djimon Hounsou), the Duchess of Oxford enters the camp, appalled at the condition of the inmates. They need medical attention.

Unbeknownst to them, a Boer sniper (Bevan Viljoen) lurks on the outskirts of the camp. He opens fire, killing Emily and wounding Oxford while little Conrad watches. Shola, in turn, kills the sniper.

Twelve years later, the Duke and Conrad (Harris Dickinson) arrive at the family estate by airplane. Conrad chafes at the Duke’s protectiveness; he wants to join up to fight with troops in the Great War (WWI, before it had a number), but he’s still too young to do so without he’s father’s permission. The Duke, a pacifist still mourning his wife’s death, is not about to grant that permission.

As father and son march up the steps into the mansion, the arrayed servants bow or curtsey, except Nanny Watkins. The Duke summons her into his study and warns her against displaying her special status in front of the other servants.


But it’s not what you think.

Later, the Duke takes Conrad into town to get fitted for a suit at a tailor’s shop called the Kingsman. Here, he meets his old friend Kitchener. While the Duke and Kitchener talk shop, Conrad tells Kitchener’s aide-de-camp, Morton (Matthew Goode) that he’d like to join the grenadiers. Morton says he’ll see what he can do. In the meantime, Kitchener expresses concern about an old friend, Archduke Ferdinand. Would the Duke be willing to lend a hand protecting him?

In an unspecified other part of the world, Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) arrives by open manual evelvator at a cabin atop a flat rock butte. He’s late. He’s brought the Shephard a Fabergé egg in the likeness of his favorite goat. The Shephard slits the goat’s throat and, in a pronounced Scottish brogue, warns the assembled villains not to mistake fondness for weakness. In true supervillain mode, he then passes out signet rings complete with a secret compartment for a suicide pill.

Spoiler alert: the goat is avenged.


I personally am not that fond of comic book/Marvel Universe stories. I find them entertaining at best, but not much more. That pretty much sums up my reaction to his movie. On the one hand, it brought up actual historical events, like the Zimmerman telegram, but it also distorted them and ripped them out of context in sometimes absurdist ways. For example, the French shot Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod) as a spy in 1917. She never traveled anywhere near the White House and did not dance for, seduce, or blackmail Woodrow Wilson as depicted here.

The history isn’t meant to be taken seriously, of course. It’s meant to be absurd and amusing. If it has a broader purpose, it eluded me.

Perhaps nothing is more absurd than the confrontation with Rasputin. It accounts for what is supposed taken place during his brutal murder—poisoned, shot, and thrown into a river. There are varying accounts as to what actually happened. However, in the movie, he also table-dances, unwisely, on a pedestal table. The scene is fun and at times, amusing simply for its absurdity.

A public service note: Trying to build an immunity to cyanide by taking small doses of cyanide over a long period of time is a bad idea. Just sayin’.

The film also states that King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas of Russia were first cousins, all grandsons of Queen Victoria of England. They were related, but their relationships were more complicated than that. The Kaiser was depicted as a buffoon. While he may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, he wasn’t quite the blithering idiot the movie portrays him as. (After the war, when the Kaiser and the Tzar have abdicated, King George muses, “Wilhelm, well, I suppose that was coming, but Nicholas…” He shudders at the thought of the assassination of the Russian royal family.)

The movie is based on The Secret Service/Kingsmen comic book series and serves as an origin story. It is the third film (Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) with a fourth planned for release in 2023).

The King’s Man has been nominated by International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA) for The Camera Operators Award. The camerawork is indeed stunning. The IFMCA also nominated it for Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller Film. Frankly, I didn’t pay attention to the music, but I did notice the Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” It fit the over-the-top action in much of the film. A final nomination was SDSA Award for Best Achievement in Decor/Design of a Fantasy or Science Fiction Feature Film. The sets are fantastic throughout the film.

My feelings about the flick are mixed. Entertaining? Yes. History stinks. Absurdity—not off the scale, but pretty high. Fabergé egg brought to the supervillain’s lair? Table dancing? Swatting away a bomb with an umbrella? (How British) I enjoyed parts of it quite a bit, but I wouldn’t watch it again.

Because this is new, it’s not available for free download. We were able to get it from the library without hassle.

Title: The King’s Man (2021)

Directed by
Matthew Vaughn

Writing Credits
Matthew Vaughn…(screenplay by) &
Karl Gajdusek…(screenplay by)
Matthew Vaughn…(story by)
Mark Millar…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by) and
Dave Gibbons…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by)

Cast (in credits order)
Djimon Hounsou…Shola
Ralph Fiennes…Orlando Oxford
Matthew Goode…Morton
Charles Dance…Kitchener
Alexandra Maria Lara…Emily Oxford
Alexander Shaw…Young Conrad
Bevan Viljoen…Boer Sniper
Harris Dickinson…Conrad Oxford
Gemma Arterton…Polly
Rhys Ifans…Grigori Rasputin
Valerie Pachner…Mata Hari
Daniel Brühl…Erik Jan Hanussen
Joel Basman…Gavrilo Princip
Todd Boyce…Dupont
Ron Cook…Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Barbara Drennan…Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
Max Count…Young King George
Emil Oksanen…Young Kaiser Wilhelm (as Emil Okasnen)
George Gooderham…Young Tsar Nicholas
Alexa Povah…Queen Victoria
Tom Hollander…King George / Kaiser Wilhelm / Tsar Nicholas
Branka Katic…Tsarina Alix
Alexander Shefler…Tsarevich Alexei
Rosie Goddard…Grand Duchess Anastasia
Dora Davis…Grand Duchess Maria
Lucia Jade Barker…Grand Duchess Olga (as Lucia-Jade Barker)
Molly McGeachin…Grand Duchess Tatiana
Aaron Vodovoz…Felix Yusupov
August Diehl…Vladimir Lenin
Nigel Lister…Arthur Zimmermann
Kristian Wanzl Nekrasov…General Ludendorff (as Kristian Wanzi Nekrasov)
Stefan Schiffer…Ludendorff Butler
Ian Kelly…President Woodrow Wilson

Released: 2021
Length: 2 hours, 11 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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