Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Matthew Vaughn and Karl Gajdusek
Director Matthew Vaughn has a great film track record ever since his breakout film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). His film credentials are impressive and the Kingsman series has been pretty solid with just a few story mishaps. Often an author or writer can leave loose ends in a story, or forget to keep track of continuity issues. The film nails a lot of key moments in being a prequel film showing us how the Kingsman Agency was founded. Yet one major continuity issue exists and could’ve been easily resolved and led to the setup for more films with this cast in this growing franchise.
Here comes the spoilers.
During a Red Cross mission in South Africa a British man, Orlando Duke of Oxford, loses his wife during a sniper attack. Years later his son, Conrad, wants to join the army. Orlando has recruited two of his servants, Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), into his secret spy network working to prevent the Great War. Having lost his wife to violence he uses his connections and influence to prevent his son from joining the army. Yet when he requests this directly from Lord Kitchener, he instead gets asked to include his son in a meeting with Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
During the visit, Conrad saves the Archduke from a bomb attack. Unfortunately, later the attacker is able to gun down the Archduke and his wife sparking what would become World War I. We get introduced to a mysterious villain known as The Shepard, whose face is never revealed. He is orchestrating a series of events to bring about the war and cause more destruction. Lord Kitchener is on a boat to Russia when it’s destroyed by a torpedo killing him and all on board.
Orlando takes Conrad and two of his personal agents along on a trip to kill Rasputin during a Christmas party. They succeed, but The Shepard orders the assassination of the Tsar and his family. Now the ending of the war is dependent upon the United States entering, which had until that point stayed out of the conflict. British Intelligence intercepts the Zimmerman Telegram which the President wants solid proof of before taking action. Conrad is now of age and he enlists in the army. Orlando meets with King George V who then summons Conrad back from the front lines. Conrad instead sends another soldier in his place. Conrad volunteers for a deadly mission to bring back the intelligence that has the proof the US President needs to join the war. Conrad secures the intel but is mistaken for a German spy due to the false identity he assumed to stay on the front line and is immediately killed.
Orlando and his team learn that Prettiness still won’t enter the war due to being blackmailed by The Shepard. They go after the woman in the video with the president and notice she wears a rare cashmere that is only made in a certain place and they head off to find The Shepard. The Shepard is discovered to be the aide-de-camp of Lord Kitchener. Here is where continuity and a major loose end are revealed. How did The Shepard meet with his agents and serves as a Lord’s aide-de-camp? Anyone with any military experience at all understands the demands and lack of free time an aide-de-camp has. Especially to be traveling between wherever the mountaintop he lived on and Britain. What SHOULD HAVE occurred to fix this issue is to have The Shepard never be revealed and the aide-de-camp serves as the mole on the British side. The rest of the film can play out the same with a minor tweak to the mid-credits scene to still keep the identity of The Shepard hidden. The identity of The Shepard could be revealed in a later film which surely they plan to do with a teaser of Adolf Hitler at the end.
This is a common issue with writing where you can easily lose track of time to actually do certain things like travel place to place. Take Lord of the Rings. They had to travel for weeks to get from point A to B. In the early 1900s travel was not as fast as it is today. Time to be in two different places at once is what defeats the story of this film and doesn’t elevate the mystery of the villain in the shadows. I think they missed a great opportunity to establish a villain for several films. This is what is missing from films these days. Let a villain be manipulative and strong enough to live to fight another day or series of films.