Film Review: Argylle
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Marv Studios and Cloudy Productions
In Theaters: 02.02
The brief season of Oscar leftovers and bottom-of-the-barrel horror releases that we call January is over. The first big-budget blockbuster release is ringing in February and its name is Argylle.
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World) is a reclusive author famous for her best-selling spy novels which chronicle the adventures of a dashing secret agent named Argylle, who is on mission to dismantle a global spy syndicate called The Division— played in cutaway sequences by Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill. While her books may be globetrotting adventures, Elly would rather spend a quiet night at home with her cat, Alfie, than do anything else. However, when Elly’s novels start to eerily mirror the actions of a real-life spy organization, she meets a man named Aidan (Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) onboard a train, and when he saves her from being killed by Division operatives, she is suddenly thrust into into the world of high stakes global espionage. Elly and Aidan (with Alfie in tow in a backpack kitty carrier) embark on a race against time to evade the killers and save the world, as the boundaries between Elly’s fictional world and reality become increasingly blurred.
The set up for Argylle plays very much like Romancing the Stone meets James Bond, and it’s yet another extremely over the top, throw-everything-at-the wall-and-see-what-sticks spy movie from Matthew Vaughn, who gave us the Kingsman franchise. The biggest differences come with Argylle taking a PG-13 rating, aiming for a wider audience.There’s a lot less blood and gore and the constant shock value sex jokes are gone. The sense of unbridled fun is at an all-time high and while Argylle is convoluted, completely ridiculous and a little too long, it’s so entertaining that I’m finding it difficult to find any serious complaints. The action sequences are outrageous and inventive, and though they rely on obvious CGI, a Matthew Vaughn movie is really just a live action Wile E. Coyote cartoon and, for me, the unconvincing effects are part of the gleefully gooey experience. The screenplay by Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) is equal parts witty banter and intentionally cheesy melodrama, and the twists and turns just keep getting better the crazier they become.
Howard is a breath of fresh air in the lead role, bringing a light charm to the role and resisting the urge to overplay the comedy. The fact that she plays this all as if it’s really happening and resists going tongue-in-cheek is a key factor in making it all work and it’s great to see her taking center stage. Rockwell can do no wrong in my book and casting him in a leading role is an automatic reason to see any movie. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Ritter, the ruthless head of The Division, and Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice, Schitt’s Creek) as Elly’s spunky mother, Ruth, are a treat to watch and are given a lot more to do than I was expecting. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Captain Marvel) gets to play against type in a memorable supporting role, and Cavill is perfectly cast as the imaginary Argylle, as he’s clearly having a blast.
If you’re not in the mood for a spoofy spectacle, or if you’re just so bored with the Vaughn formula that the idea of watching him doing what he does best yet again doesn’t excite you, it’s probably best to miss this one. If you’re ready to laugh and have a great time with an unapologetically indulgent thrill ride, Argylle is just the ticket for a weekend diversion. –Patrick Gibbs