An English nobleman, who collaborates with his wife with the Red Cross, finds himself embroiled in a tragic shooting in Africa, where he witnessed the horrors of British colonization. Years later, his son is now almost a man and wants to enlist to participate in the First World War. Instead, his father tries to convince him to serve the country instead by collaborating with his network of international spies, made up of the servants of various noble families. Meanwhile, however, an association of shady figures has also infiltrated the main European courts and has very sinister plans, which extend beyond the Great War.
Prequel set in one of the darkest periods of European history, The King’s Man – The Origins plays with historical characters and real tragedies, which contrast with the light-hearted tone of the series without deviating from the usual tracks.
Matthew Vaughn, once again directing, leaps through hoops to distance the British spy agency at the center of these films from the warmongering imperialism of the time, but only succeeds up to a point. If in the first film there was a poor man who found himself involved in espionage and was educated in tailoring of the utmost elegance, here there is instead a clandestine network of spies based on the work of the humblest, but in the end the protagonist remains the nobleman.
Pacifist and accompanied by a woman and a black man, he is an ante-litteram “woke” for being as close as possible to the hypersensitive contemporary audience. This attention is limited, however, to the positive characters, while the negative ones are more than ever caricatured specks of the various nationalities they represent. Thus that sort of English superiority complex that lets itself go out the door with open criticisms of imperialism, then reenters through the window into the real material of the film, which moreover ends up making a pawn also for Lenin, somewhat contradicting the declared spirit proletarian waved in the premises.
Beyond the ideological confusion, The King’s Man – The origins has the advantage of changing tone, with surprising effects. If at the beginning the story seems to follow a coming-of-age tale as in the first chapter, then there is a twist that turns the tables on the table. After all, the First World War is a tragedy about which it is difficult to joke, on the other hand it goes more than ever over the top with the character of Rasputin, who played by Rhys Ifans eats the scene and remains the most memorable thing in the film. Too bad that Vaughn doesn’t seem to have understood it and ends up playing it almost immediately, in an anticipated climax that leaves an unbridgeable void. Subsequent action scenes, always done with the series’ many tricks and effects, fail to replicate the hilarious fight with Rasputin, who wrestles in a mix of traditional Russian dance with a hint of classical ballet.