This article contains Kingsman: The Golden Circle spoilers.
Chances are if you have spent your evening putting on an elegant yet austere bespoke suit, or perhaps making sure that you always select Oxfords over Brogues when choosing the finest footwear, then you headed out and saw Kingsman: The Golden Circle! How’s that for a slice of Americana?
Indeed, the new spy-on-spy action-comedy is bigger, crazier, and even sillier than 2015’s first spook adventure, which, like The Golden Circle, reveled in 1960s Bondmania and all of its assorted ilk. The latest film might have taken things in a slightly different direction, as Kingsman headed to Kentucky in order to tell a new yarn involving Julianne Moore and a ‘50s inspired secret lair. Nevertheless, it was crawling with nostalgia for spy films both classic and relatively more recent. So join us as we unpack all of The Golden Circle’s most golden influences.
Still Dressing Like Harry After All These Years
The best place to start is probably one of several carryover influences which are baked into Kingsman’s franchised cake. Every spy who earns the right to call himself (or herself) a Kingsman is decked out in thick rimmed glasses, suggesting an elegant ass-kicker from a previous generation. To be specific, it is modeled after Harry Palmer, the superspy played by Michael Caine in several films, beginning with 1965’s The Ipcress File. The influence is telegraphed further by the fact that Colin Firth reprises his role of “Harry Hart” in The Golden Circle.
A Classier Kind of Avenger
One of the other recurring nods is the Kingsman’s preferred weapon of both offense and defense: an umbrella. It is a catchall device that saved Harry and Eggsy’s life during the climax of The Golden Circle, as they used it to reflect bullets while raining their own down on the enemy. This cheeky gadget is more than a slight nod to Pactrick Macnee’s weapon (and prop) of choice when he played John Steed on British television’s beloved The Avengers series from 1961 to 1969.
Love Those Briefcases and Shoes
Meanwhile, Sean Connery’s favorite Bond movie, From Russia with Love (1963), got two shout-outs in The Golden Circle. The first was another reprisal from The Secret Service, where Eggsy’s Oxford leather shoe hides a poisonous blade in the winged tip. This is the exact same kind of deadly gadget that a villainous Rosa Klebb of SPECTRE (Lotte Lenya) tried to stick 007 with in the film’s final fight scene.
However, The Golden Circle also adds to its references a secret, weaponized briefcase. In the latest Kingsman movie, that takes the shape of a Statesman piece of luggage that Eggsy uses as both a machine gun and rocket launcher in the film’s climax. However, it is based on the slightly more discreet gadget piece Connery’s 007 utilized in his own climax. That famed briefcase came with hidden gold medallions that Bond bribed Robert Shaw’s Red Grant with, a hidden gas container which fired when opened improperly, and a knife secreted away in the top edge of the case. While not a rocket launcher, the blade proved deadly enough for Bond to be able to turn the tide on Grant in a twisted duel to the death.
Something Synthetically Sinister This Way Comes
While the second Kingsman movie carries over plenty of nods from the first one, it also creates more out of whole cloth by itself… including one that I am not entirely sure is intentional, but seems too on-the-nose to be be wholly coincidental. The very first scene of the sequel begins with a rival of Eggsy seemingly returning from the grave to torment our hero. This is of course Charlie (Edward Holcroft), a would-be aristocratic snob who washed out of Kingsman school and made the poor choice to side with a super-villain during the last film. When he reappears in The Golden Circle, he is more machine now than man, with a metal arm and synthetic voice to complement his now “pleb” lifestyle… which infuriates him all the more since this East Londoner called Eggsy is suddenly a posh proprietor of a shop on Savile Row.
Curiously though, this entire dynamic is almost verbatim the relationship between Agent Sterling Archer and his longtime rival Barry Dillon. Like Charlie, Barry considers himself Archer’s better (and on some level he actually might be), yet Archer keeps getting the better of him—first by stealing Barry’s fiancée and then his career, and finally his body when Barry becomes a double agent and is seemingly killed by Sterling. Yet Barry returns as a cyborg, envious but still happy to ruin Sterling’s life. Not unlike our metallic friend Charlie here. Coincidence? Maybe. But since Archer and Kingsman collaborated for this internet video, we have our doubts.
Give the Henchman a Hand
Similarly, Charlie’s metallic arm seems awfully familiar. That’s because if you saw the Roger Moore Bond film, Live and Let Die (1973), you’d realize it’s the same gimmick enjoyed by Julius Harris’ Tee Hee. Like Charlie, Tee Hee is the second in command for a bigger bad (in this case Yaphet Kotto’s fiendish Mr. Big), but he knows how to put the squeeze on 007 with his prosthetic arm. Admittedly, it’s less high-tech than Charlie’s, but in both films it is severed from the henchman’s body during a showdown between spy and flunky.
The Coolest Kind of Spy Car
The opening action sequence also concludes with what might be the film’s most celebratory nod to 007 classics. After thinking he’s thwarted Charlie, Eggsy escapes into the Kingsman’s network of subterranean tunnels by turning his taxi into a submarine that can sink beneath the Thames. This is obviously straight out of what I’d argue is the coolest car sequence in any Bond movie: that time the Lotus turned into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). In that definitive Moore era film, Bond and Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) escape Caroline Munro and her helicopter of death by driving right off a pier and into the sea. It’s such an iconic (and absurd) scene that director Matthew Vaughn only slightly plays with it by having Eggsy be forced to hold his breath due to Charlie destroying the windshield.
Being Able to See Eye-to-Eye
Another addition to Kingsman lore appears to be paying tribute to a far more recent spy movie era. Throughout the first act, Kingsman: The Golden Circle makes hay out of the fact that their agents’ glasses allow them to see what the others are witnessing. This leads to a humorous sequence where one of Eggsy’s mates unwisely starts playing with his glasses and incidentally crashes Eggsy’s dinner date with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) and her parents. It’s even a three-way conversation with Roxy (Sophie Cookson) also on the call.
This appears to be playing with the spy glasses first really utilized in Brian De Palma’s original Mission: Impossible movie, which featured Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, and everyone else getting into all sorts of hijinks by way of video-synced eyeglasses.
Go West, Young Spy Man
The Kingsman Headquarters getting destroyed is a bit too similar a narrative beat to a plethora of stories to link to any specific movie. However, the idea of Eggsy and Merlin needing to go to Kentucky to chase their foe, Poppy (Julianne Moore), is straight out of what I’d argue is the finest Bond movie ever made, period. Yep, Sean Connery’s dapper 007 also has to make sky tracks to Kentucky in order to stop Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in 1964’s Goldfinger. While that Bondmania epic focuses more on the idea of of horse farms and Fort Knox—and Vaughn and Kingsman instead target the equally appealing bourbon business—the fact that Eggsy goes to the Bluegrass State like 007 did in his best adventure can hardly be coincidence.
Not a Patch on the Original
Speaking of Connery era shenanigans, Harry Hart’s return is something straight out of the Connery era. Sean Connery’s Bond had reports of his demise greatly exaggerated three times in his time. The first was when a lookalike in a rubber mask was murdered by Red Grant at the beginning of From Russia With Love; the second came when Thunderball (1965) began with a coffin adorned in the initials “J.B.” was having its memorial service (with the real James Bond watched on on); and of course, the whole gimmick of You Only Live Twice (1967) is that Bond fakes his death in the pre-titles sequence to get the advantage on an unsuspecting Blofeld.
Still, Harry’s resurrection is more absurd than any of them, involving technology that can repair brain damage from a bullet. It apparently can’t fix missing eyes though via similar magic. Instead, Harry wears an eyepatch, which is right out of Thunderball. Although, the villainous Largo (Adolfo Celi) wore the accessory there.
The Strangest Super Villain Lair Ever
It is hard to deduce if Poppy’s Southeastern lair is based on any specific Bond movie so much as it is a play on the idea of a lair accentuating a foe’s eccentricities. The Austin Powers movies already took pretty good shots at early Bond movie villains’ lairs (such as the hollowed out volcano or giant underwater submarine). So instead of directly referencing Bond villains’ penchant for grandiose hideaways, Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman came up with their own mad twist on the conceit. Thus Poppy spends her time chilling in a lair that is made to evoke a sickeningly nostalgic fantasy version of 1950s Americana, complete with hot dog stands, milk shake and burger diners, and a bowling alley. It’s so gonzo that it is actually kind of scary since only a madwoman would think this is heaven.
It’s a Mecha-Dog Eat Dog World
And that lair also comes with bloodthirsty dogs that feast on disloyal employees and enemy spies alike. Indeed, the robotic pooches that Poppy keeps around to make an example out of insubordinates with is not at all different from the Piranha fish Blofeld feeds suspect redheads to in You Only Live Twice (1967), or the killer shark the big bad owns in The Spy Who Loved Me, nor even the bloodthirsty hellhounds that feast on female flesh in the ghastly Moonraker (1979). Except, you know, they’re robots, because why not?
Captain Fantastic On the Bill for Every Night
And in a reference that has nothing to do with other movies, Elton John has a glorious cameo as Poppy’s pet monkey. Playing himself, John has apparently spent years as a “guest” of Poppy’s hospitality, as she capitalized on the previous film’s villain kidnapping celebrities to nab one of her own in the confusion. Thus in an old school movie theater, John is forced to play for Poppy every night her favorite Elton John ditties. Many of them must have come from John’s ninth studio album too, as that LP was titled Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and Poppy’s movie theater credits Sir Elton as “Captain Fantastic.”
Still, I think the movie missed a beat when it had John sing a riff on his “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” hit by replacing it to “Wednesday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (the day the Kingsman saved him), since that action scene would have been even giddier if it included “Crocodile Rock,” a personal favorite. Also, John’s assist to Harry Hart (Colin Firth) faintly reminded me of Clifton James’ Sheriff Pepper teaming with Roger Moore in the misconceived The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). That also had a strange fun house lair of a final location, like Poppy’s ‘50s-esque town.
A Golden Obsession
This one is pretty on-the-nose, but the only reason I can figure that Poppy insists on all her employees having a golden circle tattooed with actual gold onto their bodies is as a tribute to Goldfinger. While the gold-obsessed big bad in that did not insist on actual gold be placed on everyone’s flesh, he did paint Jill Masterson’s (Shirley Eaton) body in that exact hue as a deadly punishment.
Back to the Alps
The middle of the film also featured Eggsy and Harry returning to the Alps, this time by way of Italy. This is obviously a similar location to Valentine’s ultimate lair in the first Kingsman movie, albeit it’s only a pit stop in the sequel. Nevertheless, it reminds me of the secluded ski lodge/fortress in which the best cinematic Blofeld, played then by Telly Savalas, hid in the vastly underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). It’s also possible Vaughn was throwing shade at 2015’s Spectre since The Golden Circle features a far more preposterous (and entertaining) snowbound sequence than that recent Craig movie’s rather muted alternative.
Salute the Parachute
And that glorious action scene in the snow of the Alps concludes with yet another knowing wink at The Spy Who Loved Me. In that Roger Moore classic, Bond ends the pre-titles action sequence by skiing straight off a glacier… and then surviving by unfurling a Union Jack-decorated parachute from his back. It’s an iconic moment that is still breathtaking today since a stuntman really did that insane sky dive. While special effects obviously aided The Golden Circle reworking of the moment, fans should find it all too familiar when Eggsy and Statesman Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) escape a falling ski lift when Eggsy pulls the cord to Whiskey’s parachute. And since the Statesman are about as American as apple pie (or Kentucky bourbon), the chute is of course adorned with Old Glory’s colors and visage.
A Taste of America
The film also has one of the most unusual (and glorious) partnerships/product placements in recent memory. Throughout the film, we are treated to the image of rowdy Statesman like Jeff Bridges’ Agent Champagne drinking refined bourbon. And not only do they drink it; they supply it as Kentucky distillers. Well, in a curious little reference, Kingsman: The Golden Circle has partnered with Old Forester to release Statesman bourbon, a four-year-old blended whiskey that stands up to Old Forester’s own history as the oldest bourbon distillery in Kentucky.
The Original Connection
Of course the entire conceit of Kingsman being about, well, Kingsman tailors has nothing to do with a Mark Millar comic book. Indeed, this Matthew Vaughn flourish likely derives from his connection to Robert Vaughn, the older television actor to whom our director has a long and personal family history. Robert Vaughn also appeared in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ran from 1964 to 1968 on television and featured spies who hid their secret headquarters behind a Del Floria tailor shop with a secret entrance.
So there are all the references and easter eggs in Kingsman: The Golden Circle… That is unless we missed something! Did we? Let us know in the comment section below!