This week’s mission included several training exercises. First, I read an article about fellow spies and secret agents . Out of all of the shows, Burn Notice stuck out to me. I watched the show a few years ago, but the protagonist’s cheeky personality wore on me pretty quickly. As I read through some of the information about several other shows, some of the commonalities became clearer. I boiled down the themes to 3 different categories:
- Betrayal – this theme seems to be the most common. In almost every spy movie or show I’ve ever seen, a character on the show gets double crossed by someone he/she trusts. I can see how this would add depth to the story and the emotional impact for the viewer.
- Diabolical Villains – One of my favorite themes of the genre are diabolical villains. I know that this is common among movies in general, but spy movie villains tend to be some of my favorites. With strong villains, each spy movie seems like the viewer is following an intensely visual game of chess.
- Car Chases – this may only apply to more modern spy movies, but everyone loves a good car chase. In some ways, the car chase is a visceral, direct version of the chess game that’s going on during quiet moments of each movie. Plus, technology has come a long way, and car chases have become visually stunning.
Then I started to reflect on what makes a secret agent? These three things describe most secret agents I’ve seen in film and television:
- Stylish – Spies are dressed impeccably, which makes their stunts even more impressive. The leading men and women in spy movies seem to balance classic styles with modern twists, and more often than not they pull it off. There are some exceptions, like the Bourne movies in which the protagonist is usually in low-key attire that fits in with crowds.
- Smooth – Spies always know what to say. Perhaps it’s their deep understanding of human psychology or their experience traveling the world. Spies know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to appeal to whomever they’re speaking to. Their jobs count on it.
- Intelligent – outside of the satires, most spies are portrayed as incredibly intelligent and quick on their feet. They get themselves in impossible situations and have to regularly think their way out. My favorite spy movies have less to do with drawn out fight scenes, and more to do with clever solutions to problems.
After reading and reflecting on the article, I decided to check out Kurt Vonnegut’s video on the shape of a story curve. It was entertaining and clever, and it was surprising how many stories fall into the same curve when you boil it down to a few variables. When I was choosing which movie to watch for the week, I thought about which curve each movie followed. I chose The Kingsman: Secret Service, starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. This movie followed the Cinderella curve for the most part. Eggsy, the main character starts off in a pretty rough spot. His father is killed in a mission, and his step father is a jerk. His family is poor, and he gets bullied by some of the kids in his neighborhood.
Little did he know, his father was a Kingsman, a group of secret agents that had spanned generations. Harry Hart, his father’s former partner, decides to take a chance on Eggsy to make up for everything. This is when it starts curving upward sharply for Eggsy. He gets introduced to some new gadgets, a new wardrobe (of course!), and a father figure. Things are looking up, but it doesn’t last for long. Eggsy struggles during training, and nobody seems to have faith in him during the process. The curve starts dropping abruptly.
Although he had nearly given up, he would never have forgotten the times he spent with Harry. He also now knew that his father was a secret agent and had died on a mission. These two things would stay with Eggsy forever, even if he had failed. But it couldn’t end there. Long story short, Eggsy helps Harry discover a double-agent Kingsman and save the world. Vonnegut would say his happiness level goes off the charts.
This was an entertaining mission that helped me put into perspective the history of fellow agents and all that’s at stake. Kingsman: Secret Service ended up being one of my favorite spy movies of all time. All the actors were clearly having fun with it, and the writers did a great job of balancing the serious plot with outrageous moments throughout.