(L to R) Sam Rockwell and Bryce Dallas Howard in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
In theaters on February 2nd, ‘Argylle’ sees ‘Kingsman’ director Matthew Vaughn sticking with the spy genre for a new, even more ridiculous tale. But as the plot turns pile up –– and no, we will not be spoiling them here –– you might find your patience tested.
Still, with an entertaining ensemble and a few fun cameos, the movie does do enough to keep you engaged.
Related Article: ‘Argylle’ Trailer
Does ‘Argylle’ Spy Hard Enough?
Henry Cavill is Agent Argylle in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Vaughn, of course, has been making these movies for a while now: we’ve already had three ‘Kingsman’ movies (two regular entries and prequel ‘The King’s Man’, with more in development), so he’s very experienced in this genre.
‘Argylle’, of course, is working at a slightly different gear, keeping things PG-13 as opposed to the sweary, violent previous efforts from the director. While the wild tone of the ‘Kingsman’ movies is sometimes missed (and there’s really no one here who matches Colin Firth from the first of those), ‘Argylle’ has its own charms. And we don’t mean Henry Cavill’s flat-top haircut.
‘Argylle’: Script and Direction
Director Matthew Vaughn on the set of ‘Argylle.’
Though there has been plenty of speculation about the true authorship of the book on which ‘Argylle’ is purportedly based (“It’s Taylor Swift! It’s an actual newbie writer! It’s nobody!”), that doesn’t really factor into the movie, which is written by ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Pan’ scripter Jason Fuchs.
It’s fair to say that this new effort falls somewhere between those two stools, where ‘Wonder Woman’ is the high water mark and ‘Pan’ is… er… not. But regardless of who provided the script, this truly feels like a Vaughn movie through and through. It doesn’t bear the ‘Kingsman’ moniker (though be on the lookout for a sneaky reference at one point), but it might as well exist in the same or a similar heightened espionage universe.
Vaughn brings his typical style to this one –– plenty of high-energy set pieces are brought to life by a talented stunt team. A rumble on a train and a truly crazed moment featuring colored gasses later on stick in the memory.
(L to R) Henry Cavill, director Matthew Vaughn and executive producer Claudia Vaughn on the set of ‘Argylle.’
And there is something to be said for the deconstruction of spy tropes on display here, a core element given the storyline about a writer whose pulpy novels are seemingly predicting real world acts by agents on both sides of the moral line. The problem is that as things become more convoluted, the air rather starts to escape from it all. Again, we won’t dig into that.
Vaughn mostly manages to keep a solid hand on things, while indulging in the sort of over-the-top moments that have peppered his previous work. Does it all hang together? Not completely, but like the fictional books that form its spine, it has enough flare to stop the joins showing too clearly.
(L to R) Sam Rockwell as Aiden and Bryce Dallas Howard is Elly Conway in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Vaughn is still able to wrangle a solid cast, anchored particularly by Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell.
Howard, who has been splitting her time of late between dodging dinosaurs in the ‘Jurassic World’ franchise and marshaling Mandalorians as a director of the small screen ‘Star Wars’ behemoth is a charming and relatable lead here, bringing nervous energy to author Elly Conway. She comes across as if J.K. Rowling (minus the more troubling aspects of her thinking) had suddenly learned that the residents of Hogwarts are real.
She plays really well off of Rockwell, who is all laidback cool charisma, but finding solid emotional depths when called upon. And yes, he is given an excuse to dance, you’ll be relieved to hear.
Bryan Cranston as Ritter in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
In smaller roles, we have Bryan Cranston as the scowling chief of the evil agency obsessed with tracking down the details locked in Elly’s brain that could bring them down. He does what he can with a fairly generic role but does bring something welcome to the performance.
Ditto Catherine O’Hara as Elly’s mother, biggest critic/supporter, who worries about her daughter and is typically funny in the part.
As the characters in the ‘Argylle’ books, it’s welcome to see Henry Cavill given the chance to mix action with comedy (and from the looks of the trailer for Vaughn’s old colleague Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’, it’s something he’s leaning into). Here, he nails the slightly smug charm of Elly’s bargain basement Bond, and perfectly embodies the part.
(L to R) Dua Lipa and John Cena in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
He’s aided in that by John Cena as his hulking sidekick and Dua Lipa as the attractive terrorist we meet in the initial scenes as Elly reads her latest tome to a rapt audience of fans.
Cat fans, meanwhile, will enjoy the feline performance of Chip (Vaughn’s real-life kitty), who does what is asked of him –– when he’s not being replaced by some occasionally dreadful CGI.
Finally, there is Samuel L. Jackson, a veteran of the original ‘Kingsman’ who you feel is mostly doing Vaughn a solid by showing up to add gravitas to the underwritten role that’s mostly there for expositional purposes.
‘Argylle’: Final Thoughts
Bryce Dallas Howard is Elly Conway in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Though it sometimes bears a plasticky sheen that is too much even given the subject matter (this is certainly not a ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie, nor is it trying to be), ‘Argylle’ should give the ‘Kingsman’ faithful something to watch while they await the future adventures of Eggsy and co.
It has its moments, but it verges more on ridiculous when it should be focused.
‘Argylle’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.
“The greater the spy, the bigger the lie.”
2 hr 19 minFeb 2nd, 2024
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When the plots of reclusive author Elly Conway’s fictional espionage novels begin to mirror the covert actions of a real-life spy organization, quiet evenings at… Read the Plot
What’s the story of ‘Argylle’?
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elly Conway, the reclusive author of a series of best-selling espionage novels, whose idea of bliss is a night at home with her computer and her cat, Alfie.
But when the plots of Elly’s fictional books — which center on secret agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his mission to unravel a global spy syndicate — begin to mirror the covert actions of a real-life spy organization, quiet evenings at home become a thing of the past.
Accompanied by Aiden (Sam Rockwell), a cat-allergic spy, Elly (carrying Alfie in her backpack) races across the world to stay one step ahead of the killers as the line between Elly’s fictional world and her real one begins to blur.
Who else is in ‘Argylle’?
The spy movie’s cast also includes John Cena, Ariana DeBose, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Sofia Boutella, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Chip the cat plays Alfie in ‘Argylle,’ directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Other Movies Directed by Matthew Vaughn:
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