Most people, if not everyone, has seen a movie of the spy and espionage genre. This could be anything from classics like the Mission: Impossible and 007 franchises to comedies like the 2012 film This Means War or 2003’s Johnny English. Even Marvel’s cinematic universe has some flicks that can easily be classified under the espionage genre if you try hard enough. But what about books that are about spies going on top secret missions in the hopes of saving the world? What about protagonists faced with difficult decisions unknowingly inspired by real life events? That is exactly what Argylle, the latest film from Matthew Vaughn, is all about.
Argylle is a comedy spy film that follows celebrated author, Elly Conway, who writes espionage novels for a living, and is specifically known for her series “Argylle”. However, upon meeting a real spy, Elly discovers that her books are a one-to-one description of very real geopolitical events. Elly is soon caught up in a whirlwind of adventure, spies, and secrets as she gets closer to discovering who the real Agent Argylle is. The film is jam-packed with stars including Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Let’s get real, here. Argylle is a film that requires the audience to suspend a lot of disbelief and ignore our natural need to apply logic to every little thing. But even as we do that, Argylle still manages to come off like a bizarre fever dream that isn’t all too great. Most of the film’s positives can be found in its fun and comedic first act as well as its insane and over-the-top fight scenes in its second act. For book lovers like myself, just knowing that this film coincides with the real world release of the “Argylle” book makes it all the more enticing.
Think about it: Following an author who wants nothing more than to hang out with her cat and be surrounded by her books while writing her next hit novel only to be pushed into the throes of adventure inspired by her own work. Not to mention watching this fictional author put her writing process to use in real time? That sounds incredible! And to reel us in even more, there’s an oddly bookish aesthetic, an adorable cat, and a silly mystery that just makes the movie fun and enjoyable as we’re laughing along to some of the more outrageous moments.
There’s just something about the way Henry Cavill and John Cena present themselves together in this film that had me and my fellow audience members losing it. The suave and nonchalant personas of their characters paired with action scenes you know you’d see in any old spy movie makes us wonder constantly what direction this movie intends to follow. Sam Rockwell also secures our interest with his endless amounts of charm and excellently timed one-liners. And let’s be honest, a lot of us can relate to Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance of Elly Conway. A bookworm, a shut-in, anxiety. She is us and we are her. For the first hour, at least. Because it’s the remainder of the film where we immediately begin to see it go downhill.
With a runtime of two hours and twenty minutes, it becomes glaringly obvious that there is simply no reason or rhyme for Argylle to be as long as it was. While one would hope that its second act would bring the audience clarity and truth to the story right before resolving the conflict, the film does way more than that. In fact, it does far too much. While the first act of the film captures our attention and gets us giggling, Argylle‘s second act is riddled and cursed with a never ending train of plot twists that are cheap and uninspired, and drag on longer than necessary. And look, no one said plot twists are bad. But to introduce so many that it creates even more questions on the road to what should be the finale just pulls the audience out to where we’re frequently checking the time to see how long it’ll be before we get to leave the theater.
The journey we’re on to find out the real identity of Agent Argylle also becomes less interesting over time and upon unveiling the truth, it’s just utterly disappointing. And that’s just an unfortunate result of such interesting and engaging marketing from the studio to get people to watch this random spy movie. But as soon as we’re given the big reveal, the story could have just picked up the pace, moved quickly to an explosive and hilarious finale, and rolled the credits. But it doesn’t. It just keeps going and going with more plot twists and predictable two-timing moments that had even the person next to me falling asleep after an hour of laughter.
To make matters worse, Argylle doesn’t know the type of espionage film it wants to be halfway through the film as it experiments with a 180 shift in tone. Sure, there are a few well-choreographed fight sequences that are very much reminiscent of Matthew Vaughn’s beloved Kingsman films. But outside of this, Argylle’s second act removes nearly all traces of comedy and becomes an absolute bore to watch. Nothing feels surprising or purposeful anymore, and it just makes you wish the movie would have ended 45 minutes sooner.
For all of its marketing, mystery and intrigue, and even its stacked cast with big household names, Argylle had a strange potential to be something big. Unfortunately, that potential is squandered away in favor of being practically two different movies in one, wasting away the precious talent it enlisted to tell a nearly worthless story and fumbling its potential as an iconic espionage flick in the pop culture world. And it’s truly a shame when you remember Vaughn’s Kingsman series that carried so much of his iconic style of storytelling that is still referenced and joked about today. While Argylle certainly has its moments that are guaranteed to make people laugh out loud and wonder what on earth did we sign up to watch, its weakest moments are what drags the entire movie down to the bottom of the ocean as we hope to forget we ever saw this movie. Truthfully, a movie about the cat being a super mega ultra international spy would have proved a bit more interesting.
Argylle receives 2 out of 5 Samosas.
Argylle is now playing in theaters.
Runtime: 2h 20m
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