“Argylle” stars Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Dua Lipa, Ariana DeBose, John Cena, and Samuel L. Jackson. Released on February 2, 2024, the film has a novelist getting caught in the espionage world.
The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed films such as “Layer Cake,” “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class,” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Writing novels can bring out endless possibilities in a writer’s mind, especially ones involving spies and secret organizations. However, one book reveals a possibility so real that it’s impossible for anyone to believe. After two weeks of January boredom, we’re finally getting to the good stuff that will hopefully take 2024 by storm. That is if they’re actually good. The streak starts with the latest action-packed film from Matthew Vaughn that introduces audiences to a new spy world that literally jumps right off the pages. It’s no “Kingsman 3,” but anything involving Vaughn and Cavill’s hairstyle is an automatic must-see for me. It’ll keep us occupied until the filmmaker finishes up with the long-awaited continuation of the "Kingsman" franchise, but is it also another bonafide start of a new spy franchise from Vaughn? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Elly Conway (Howard), a reclusive spy novelist. Elly has recently finished her latest book in the eponymous spy series involving its most handsome spy, Agent Argylle (Cavill). However, she eventually gets writer’s block while attempting to finish her next novel. During her train ride to her parents’ house, she encounters a stranger named Aidan (Rockwell), who reveals himself to be an actual spy before saving her from an ambush. Aiden then explains that Elly has become the target of a mysterious organization called the Division, led by Ritter (Cranston), who believes that Elly’s novels can predict the future. Hoping that her creativity can help him defeat the Division, Aiden recruits Elly on a globe-trotting adventure to save the world and provide a happy ending to her larger-than-life book.
“Argylle” had a pretty interesting history leading up to its release that captured my intrigue. It was initially based on an “unpublished” novel written by Elly Conway, who everyone believed existed as a real person and later as Taylor Swift’s pen name. However, those theories were eventually debunked, making the movie completely original. Honestly, that would’ve been as wild as the movie itself if those turned out to be accurate. It can’t hurt to dream. Regardless of its history, it’s enough to be ecstatic for another fun and crazy spy-related ride, especially one from Matthew Vaughn, who’s had a healthy track record since 2010’s “Kick-Ass”. But, of course, as the old saying goes, there’s more to a fun cinematic ride than just the action and visuals.
“Argylle” is a teen-rated version of “Kingsman” regarding its spy action comedy elements, ridiculous fight scenes, and an ordinary person entering the espionage world. However, its story has its own flavor that kept it from being the director’s rip-off of his other spy franchise. One reason is the twists because you can’t have a spy movie without a surprise or two…or three. The best thing I could say about them without giving them away is that they may not impress everyone expecting what the trailers and poster suggested. Personally, I thought they were fine enough to provide more intrigue in its story and characters, even if they were a tad overdone. While I found one of them more predictable than the others, the film’s surprises emphasized Elly’s character arc involving her learning to write her own story in her life. Jason Fuchs’s screenplay may not hit all the bullseyes regarding its story beats and twists. However, it did provide enough entertainment, humor, and energy to rejuvenate its seemingly fundamental plot.
The movie’s energy comes from Matthew Vaughn’s vision. Vaughn is another filmmaker who deserves the credit he’s getting due to his stylistic presentation. His visual creativity in the action scenes and transitions is a smoothie full of vibrancy and slickness that’s delectable enough to consume, and I do love me some smoothies. He’s also not without his approach to the comedic and subtly heartfelt moments involving the characters and over-the-top action. They’re why I enjoyed some of his previous films like “First Class” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. Vaughn knew how to make an action movie exhilarating and as stylishly gorgeous as Dua Lipa’s dress, and his direction in “Argylle” is another example of that. The humor was nicely woven together with the action, but I think it would be even better if it focused more on the meta elements involving its tropes. That way, the movie's number of twists would be more forgiving. As for the action scenes, they’re unsurprisingly diverting and expectedly ridiculous despite some of the visual effects looking a tad rough, especially in the first act.
Unfortunately, there’s bound to be a weakness hiding within Vaughn’s strengths, which happens to be the length. Vaughn’s previous two “Kingsman” movies suffered a bit from their overstuffed two-hour-plus runtimes, mainly “The Golden Circle”, which clocked in at a jaw-dropping two hours and 20 minutes. While I still consider them entertaining, they did overstay their welcome with their concepts. Sadly, Vaughn still hasn’t learned that lesson in “Argylle” due to its two-hour-and-19-minute runtime. While the pacing is consistent enough to keep my attention, the movie didn’t have a good reason to be as long as Elly’s novel franchise, especially since it didn’t have many more creative ideas to fill its remaining voids.
But what about its all-star cast, you ask? Were some of its well-known actors charming enough to make “Argylle” more watchable? The simple answer to those questions is a resounding “yes”. Sam Rockwell is the best of the bunch, in my opinion. Rockwell’s charismatic acting skills perfectly fit the role of Aidan, an impatient yet caring spy sent to help Elly. He’s hilarious to watch regarding the dialogue, and his chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard, who was also good as Elly, was a genuine eye-opener. Henry Cavill and John Cena were also solid additions to the cast as Argylle and Wyatt, respectively, despite not being in the movie as much as Elly and Aidan. Bryan Cranston as Ritter was a mildly diverting antagonist, and Samuel L. Jackson never fails to impress me regarding his performance as Alfred Solomon.
Overall, “Argylle” is a stylistic and mildly entertaining approach to the spy genre that’s as delightful as reading a good book or, in this case, a spy novel. It’s far from refreshing regarding its hit-and-miss screenplay and overdone twists, and its runtime can be excessive. Besides that, this is another spy movie that accomplished its objective of being a fun yet flawed action-packed ride that’s visually impressive and humorously enjoyable. Thanks to its decent cast, Vaughn’s direction, solid humor, and energetic action, the film is another worthy addition to the popular spy genre that’s as well-cut as Argylle’s hair. It’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of the actors and the spy genre, but make sure you lower your expectations just in case.