“The King’s Man”: A mix of action comedy and historical drama


“The King’s Man” is an emotional and entertaining mix of a historical war film and an action film. [Courtesy of 20th Century Studio]


Director Matthew Vaughn’s “The King’s Man” is an emotional and entertaining mix of a historical war film and an action film. The prequel to the previous two “Kingsman” series films, “The King’s Man” delves into the origin of the titular peace-keeping spy organization, the Kingsman. “The King’s Man” is set during the eve of World War I, where Europe is at the brink of an all-out war between its nations. The film follows Orlando Oxford, the British Duke of Oxford, played by Ralph Fiennes, as he attempts to prevent a mysterious villain and his henchmen from using the war to plunge the world into further chaos — all while trying to convince his son Conrad, played by Harris Dickinson, to not join the dangerous front line of the Great War. 

The film’s greatest strength is its shift between heart-pumping action and serious drama. However, it is also its greatest weakness. Director Vaughn attempts to address the serious and harrowing experience of World War I, the terrible injustices caused by 19th-century colonialism and the importance of pacifism through the inner conflict between the Duke of Oxford and his son Conrad. 

Throughout the film, Oxford and Conrad have various clashes on how best to help their country. The young and hot-blooded Conrad believes the best place to serve his country is fighting on the battlefield. Meanwhile, his jaded veteran father Oxford believes it is better to use diplomatic means to resolve conflicts rather than taking and risking lives on the frontlines. 

However, amongst the contemplative debates about human conflicts, Vaughn must also maintain the tradition of fun and over-the-top spy action established by the previous two films of the series. Despite Vaughn’s best efforts, the film did not strike that ideal balance. The film switches too rapidly and often between the two tones, or the film’s atmospheric mood, preventing the audience from being fully able to absorb the story’s meaning and transition their emotions between the two drastic tones of the movie.

Nevertheless, the film still is an entertaining watch and has many excellent directing choices in it. “The King’s Man” continues the tradition of the series by delivering explosive action scenes that are as spectacularly choreographed as the previous two films of the series. 

This brings us to one of the most well-made casting choices this year, Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin. Rhys Ifans’ Rasputin in the film was one of the side villains. However, his riveting and eccentric performance completely steals the show. Already in the character’s trailer, many fans have commented after watching the trailer that Ifans performance was so compelling that it was as if he is the mystic Russian monk himself. 

Another strength of the film was the portrayal of the complicated yet heartfelt relationship between father and son by Ralph Fiennes and Harris Dickinson. The conflicting feeling of a father wishing to protect his son from the horrors of war while letting him become independent was especially acute in Ralph Fiennes’ stellar performance. 

In conclusion, “The King’s Man” is a great choice for anyone who is looking for a film with over-the-top action and a heartfelt story, highlighting a father-son relationship. However, if you are looking for a serious war drama that vividly captures the nature of human conflict, then this film’s rapidly shifting tones are not the best choice for you.