“Argylle” is a fun spy/comedy romp. Although the film requires massive amounts of suspension of disbelief, its star-studded cast mostly deliver the goods. One major drawback is its unnecessary extension of the twist-filled story such that the movie comes in at 2 hours, 19 minutes.
The story begins with a spy set-piece. Argylle (Henry Cavill) is pursuing Lagrange (Dua Lipa). In doing so, his trusted assistant Keira (Ariana DeBose) is shot. Argylle tells his superior, Director Fowler (Richard E. Grant), that he can save her. But he is told to pursue Lagrange on her motorcycle.
A chase ensues where Argylle steals a vehicle and engages in daredevil driving tactics to keep up. In the end, his assistant Wyatt (John Cena) captures her. Lagrange poisons herself. By examining her phone, they realize that they have been set up by Director Fowler. They are on their own.
At this point, we see Argylle’s lips become those of Ella Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). She is the writer of the Argylle series and is at a book reading. Taking questions from the audience, she jokingly tells them that despite her ability to write a good spy novel, she is not a spy. She also tells her devotees that she is almost done with the next book.
In her home, which she occupies with Alfie (Chip) the cat, she is just writing the concluding paragraphs of her next book in the series. The picture cuts to a live-action portrayal involving Argylle in Hong Kong. He goes through several imaginings of his actions as Ella struggles to get her tale just right.
After she finishes, she sends it off to her Mom, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara). The next morning Ruth tells her that she liked the draft. But she feels that the ending is unfulfilling. She offers to visit Ella in Colorado, but Ella decides to go by train to visit her mother.
On the train, Alfie is in a cute backpack with a clear bubble through which he is visible. One man hits up on Ella. Then a hippie-esque character sits down across from her, despite her protestations. He is reading her latest book, and tells her that he likes it.
Then he tells her that he is an actual spy, and her life is in danger. Ella does not believe this until a fan comes up for an autograph. His proffered pen contains a knife. Her new spy friend defends her.
All hell breaks out on the train as an array of people pop out of the woodwork trying to kill Ella. Her new spy companion fights them off in a series of comedy-tinged fight scenes as Ella watches.
Once they escape, she is told that the spy is named Aidan (Sam Rockwell), and that she has to trust him with her life despite her apprehensions about his trustworthiness.
A cut to another scene takes us to Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston), who is furious that his team failed to apprehend Ella. After disposing of the man who failed him, he demands that a search for her continue.
Aidan shows Ella that he has bugged her house with cameras. She watches as ne’er-do-wells ransack her home. What is going on and why is she involved?
One of the concerns that I had about this film as it progressed was the portrayal of Ella as a damsel-in-distress character. Her portrayal seemed like a huge setback for the portrayal of women, especially after the previous year’s meta-movie “Barbie.” I thought that I would have to completely dis this picture. Spoilers do not allow me to say how this issue is resolved, but it was to my satisfaction.
The script is filled with many twists and turns. Most worked, but some defied credulity. If there is a spy trope of any kind, it is included in this work.
It is one thing to ask an audience to suspend disbelief, and it is another to push their tolerance to the limit. As events sped along, I had to give up making any logical sense of what was happening and just go along for the ride. This script does not stand serious scrutiny in terms of consistency, science and probability.
That is not to say that it isn’t enjoyable. Some of the action sequences were very creatively conceived and executed. There is real chemistry between Rockwell and Howard.
Alfie the cat definitely added to the positives of the film. Even though I am sure that they had to use CGI to stage some action scenes with him, he provides a needed sense of comic relief.
As far as the acting goes, Howard has to give the most detailed performance, which again I cannot describe in depth due to spoilers. Rockwell is great as always.
So far I have not mentioned Samuel L. Jackson as one of the actors. He has very little screen time and seems to phone in his lines. Cranston and O’Hara can be slightly over-the-top.
The actors in the “Argylle” novel visualizations also do not get much screen time or good material to work with. The credits reveal that Ariana DeBose sings on several of the songs.
Matthew Vaughn has an impressive action-director pedigree with pictures like the Kingsman and Kick-Ass series. He also has directed other types of films like “Rocketman” and “Tetris.” Here, his major flaw is never ending the movie. Just when you think that a climax has been reached, another crisis occurs. It reminded me of the movie “Ambulance,” which also never seemed to conclude. I wish that he had the courage to pare down the screenwriter’s excess.
“Argylle” must have cost a fortune to make to pay all of these name actors. So it will need to have strong box office to recoup its costs. I will say that this is the kind of movie where you could come in at any point and find something enjoyable, if occasionally annoying, to watch. The length also will not matter so much on a home viewing where you can break it up into bits and pieces.
In the end, “Argylle” is often preposterous while still managing to be good fun at times. There is an end-credit sequence.
3 out of 5 stars
From the twisted mind of Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman franchise, Kick-Ass) comes Argylle, a razor-witted, reality-bending, globe-encircling spy thriller.
Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World franchise) is 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 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 (Oscar® winner 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.
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Sofia Boutella, with Ariana DeBose and Catherine O’Hara and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by: Jason Fuchs
Genre: Fantasy Spy Thriller
"Argylle" is a flawed but fun spy comedy romp
I will say that this is the kind of movie where you could come in at any point and find something enjoyable, if occasionally annoying, to watch. The length also will not matter so much on a home viewing where you can break it up into bits and pieces.
In the end, “Argylle” is often preposterous while still managing to be good fun at times.