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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

The King’s man returns

Review by Ben Soton

The King’s Man. 20th Century Studios, 2021. Dir: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: Rhys Ifans, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Harris Dickinson, Matthew Goode, Robert Aramayo, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Gemma Arterton, Stanley Tucci, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hollander and Djimon Hounsou. 131mins.

WHAT HAVE a Zulu warrior fighting with Rasputin to the tune of the 1812 overture, Mata Hari seducing Woodrow Wilson, and VI Lenin accepting the abdication of Nicholas II got in common? Firstly, they never happened and secondly, they all feature in The King’s Man, a film I have been waiting almost two years to see. The King’s man returns

Delayed eight times due to production issues and the impact of the Covid pandemic, The King’s Man is a prequel to the two earlier Kingsman films, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) – all based on the The Secret Service comic book series that debuted in 2012.

The Kingsman Agency, a private security firm based in a Savile Row tailor’s shop, had its origins in the First World War. The Agency consists of its founder, the Earl of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson), a working-class English nanny (Gemma Arterton) and a Zulu warrior (Djimon Hounsou). Meanwhile, a sinister organisation, resembling James Bond’s Spectre, is hell bent on the destruction of the British Empire. To do this it employs Mata Hari, Gavrilo Princip, Grigori Rasputin and Lenin. Its plan is to get Russia out of the war and prevent the USA from entering it, thus leading to a German victory and British defeat.

In recent years there has been talk of conspiracy theories and the film’s plot is ultimately based around one of them. Reactionaries have for years promoted the view that the First World War was the result of a sinister plot, either explicitly or implicitly linked to World Jewry. But in The King’s Man the sinister organisation intent on destroying the British Empire is has at its helm not a Jew but an enraged Scotsman.

Right-wing historians often view the period from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 to the outbreak of First World War as a largely peaceful period, signified by European and British dominance the globe. This is largely a myth. This imagined ‘golden age’ saw numerous wars between European Powers; perhaps most notably the Franco-Prussian conflict, as well as a number of minor conflicts. It also saw the plunder and carve-up of Africa; an important factor behind inter-imperialist conflict that led to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. Arguably, the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 was simply the conclusion of those events not a break with them.

The film also promotes the fiction that the forceful personality of Queen Victoria prevented conflict between the three countries headed by her grandsons: George V of Great Britain, Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany. Tom Hollander manages to play all three roles, with George V portrayed in the most positive light. He mentions fear of revolution in Britain and not wanting to suffer the same fate of either of his cousins.

Ultimately the 19th Century was a period when capitalism fully established itself as the dominant system on the planet and faced no competition from rival systems, namely socialism. If you watch this film, be aware of conspiracy theories and false historical narratives. Conspiracy theories are not simply the property of the tin-foil hat brigade.