Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Sofia Boutella, Ariana DeBose, Catherine O’Hara, Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: 2 hrs 20 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 1 February 2024
Synopsis: The greater the spy, the bigger the lie. 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 Aidan (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.
Matthew Vaughn has proven he is capable of pulling off entertaining espionage action thrillers given his excessive Kingsman franchise. And with Argylle, he has taken a step further in expanding his spy-centred universe- giving audiences an original spy movie based on the work of a fictional writer.
The opening act showcases Argylle (Henry Cavill), a suave looking, James Bond-like spy working on a case in Greece with his partner, Wyatt (John Cena) when they realised their boss is double-crossing them.
But wait. Argylle and Wyatt are not exactly real spies or even real physical persons at all. They are just characters lifted out of a spy theme novel by American writer, Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). Conway has ended her latest novel on a cliffhanger. She is an introvert who only has a cat named Alfie as companion and her mother, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara) to talk to and seems wary of any romantic liaisons.
On a train ride to visit her mother in Chicago, Conway encountered a real spy, Aiden (Sam Rockwell) who saves her from being kidnapped by a group of assailants. Later on, Aiden told her that the organisation believes that Conway can predict the future because whatever she writes in her books happened in real-life. What exactly is going on with Conway? Is Aiden a good guy or bad? Questions and more questions.
Intriguing is the word when it comes to the script written by actor and writer Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman, Pan). There are mainly two stories going on at once. The fictional portion showcases Argylle and sometimes with Wyatt in action. And then it switches effortlessly to Aiden fighting off the impending enemies in the real world. In the eyes of Conway however, she keeps seeing Argylle in action, handsomely fending off the attackers in his slick suit and hair.
Clearly, everyone is having a lot of fun especially Cavill who is rumoured to be one of the forerunners to play James Bond decades ago if not for his tender age. Argylle probably marks Rockwell’s biggest role to date besides Moon and surely he doesn’t disappoint given his sizzling chemistry opposite Howard who in turn manages to be both threatening and vulnerable. There’s also Bryan Cranston and Samuel L. Jackson who adds to the shaken and stirred madness.
If you are familiar with Vaughn’s works liked the Kingsman and Kick-Ass franchise, you will know the latter is fond of delivering outrageous, over-the-top action set pieces. While the entire movie is not as violent (it’s PG13 after all) as the church massacre scene in the first Kingsman, there’s an ice-skating on crude oil sequence here that is downright cringe-worthy and silly.
While the tagline warns us not to let the cat out of the bag, we can say that Argylle is full of twists and turns with the plotting more cartoonish than witty. There’s enough action to keep audiences engaged but they are mostly play for fun. The jokes about cats and dogs stand out as the funniest. Still, the mid-credits show there is more to Argylle and Vaughn has promised he is going to launch a franchise with this big budget extravaganza. Pray hard.
(Vaughn continues his quest for outrageous spy romp and Argylle more or less achieves his goal)
Review by Linus Tee