The King’s Man: The First Mission, critical. An adventure that does not find its tone

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At the dawn of the 20th century, Europe was on the razor’s edge. The hostilities broke out the First World War, in which the Old Continent began to crack with the blood of its citizens. The King’s Man, the new film in the series written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, is set in this time of trouble. After multiple delays due to the coronavirus, we have finally had the opportunity to enjoy the film, which will be released exclusively in theaters on December 29. Unlike the previous feature films in the series, this prequel has a hard time finding its own identity, especially since it fails to mix its main elements.

The King’s Man opens with a great tragedy. Duke Orlando of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) meets his family in South Africa, where a bloody war is being fought. When everything seems to be over, the Duchess is murdered before the eyes of her husband and her son, little Conrad.

With the last breath of life, the woman asks the aristocrat to keep her child away from war, a promise that she intends to fulfill at all costs. The problem is that the young man (Harris Dickinson) soon reveals his desire to serve his country … on the front lines. This poses a parent-child confrontation that takes place throughout much of the footage and that makes up the most dramatic part of the production.

The King’s Man: this is how a war is forged

In the context of the film, behind the decisions of the European sovereigns, the kings George V of England, the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and the German monarch Wilhelm II, are certain characters that belong to a dark sect that pulls the strings in the shadows. Meanwhile, the Duke of Oxford remains true to his goal of keep your son away from war, while beginning to build the foundations of the organization, a pacifist institution that fights for peace.

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The film works quite well when it focuses on being an adventure, spy, and action movie. The fighting sequences against characters like Rasputin are well executed and entertaining as well as vibrant. On the other hand, the motivations of the characters go in different directions and collide head-on with those of the villain, all a lousy baddie full of clichés: tricky, manipulative, little patient even with his allies and with absolutely destructive intentions. Hitler, Lenin and other characters of great historical importance are only pawns in a scheme of domination that he has drawn up and executed in the palatial corridors and the streets.

That dramatic tone, especially the one that revolves around the relationship between Duke Orlando and his son Conrad, is what truly breaks the tone of the film. The tug of war between the two does not convince and creates situations that do not match humor or action sequences. You can do an adventure with dramatic touches, but the mixture of all these elements has to be very careful, because otherwise what happens to The King’s Man happens: we do not care about the fate of its characters, they become mere cartoons. Everything is designed to generate a reaction in the duke that reactivates his ideals.

No, The King’s Man is not the movie of the year. At times entertaining, at times tedious, at times somewhat ridiculous and generally better. It’s especially enjoyed when you put drama aside.

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