Argylle tells the story of Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a reclusive writer who lives in the creativity of her mind. As the author of the best-selling spy novels featuring the brave and brutal ‘Agent Argylle’ (Henry Cavill), Elly’s best relationships are with her loving parents, her cat, Alfie, and her computer screen. But, after her novels draw the attention of a global spy syndicate, Elly is thrust into the world that she believes she’d created. Teaming with the oddly effective secret agent, Aiden (Sam Rockwell), Elly races around the world in order to finish her story and save the world, with her beloved cat in tow.
Written in directed by Matthew Vaughn, Argylle is the PG-13 cousin to Vaughn’s beloved Kingsman franchise. While Argylle is brash and bold, it still feels like it’s holding back at times. Sticking to the PG rating, Vaughn has created a film that is easily more marketable than his much more violent Kingsman world bud doesn’t seem to carry the same sort of fire. Similar to Deadpool, part of the appeal of the Kingsman world was its ability to create something visually stunning while standing out against other ‘superhero fare’. Though, with Argylle, Vaughn runs the risk of becoming stagnant. (It also doesn’t entirely help that script is often erratic with its twists and turns.)
Having said this though, that’s not to say that Argylle isn’t fun in its own right. While performances are enjoyable, it’s a delightfully campy Rockwell that often steals the show. As the wild-eyed Aiden, Rockwell leans into the comedy with enthusiasm, practically winking at the camera along the way.
What’s more, using his signature style and flare, Vaughn always works hard to delight the eyes. Featuring over-the-top style action sequences and comedy, each battle is well-choreographed with pop and sizzle. From gunfire under the cover of brightly coloured smoke grenades or spinning cameras during car chases, Argylleattempts to dazzle, even in moments when the script doesn’t feel entirely up to par.
Even so, one of the most intriguing aspects of Argyle is its interest in owning our own story. Author Elly Conway is beloved by her legions of fans for her wild spy fantasy series. To her, they are the very peak of creativity. These are stories that have been itching to be unleashed from her mind. Yet, her books have the uncanny ability to predict global events, garnering interest from undercover spy organizations who wish to use the stories to their own advantage. As a result, Elly is completely overwhelmed by the madness.
But this battle between fiction and reality is key to the film’s ultimate goal.
For several of these characters, this tension forces them to better know themselves. Without giving any spoilers, each reveal restructures the way they that they see the world. But, in doing so, they also begin to feel more empowered. The greater connection they have with their past, the better sense they have of who they are and how they fit into the world, giving them confidence and strength.
Even so, this sort of insight remains buried under a barrage of blow-ups and double crosses.
In the end, Argylle remains a fun night out for those who want to step into Elly’s world. But, unfortunately, this spy story simply doesn’t have the firepower that it thinks that it does.
Argylle is available in theatres on Friday, February 2nd, 2024