Director Matthew Vaughn’s (known for the Kingsman franchise, which may or may not be set in the same universe as this title) latest spy comedy, Argylle, follows a successful novelist who learns that her work closely mirrors real-life events. The film, produced by AppleTV and distributed theatrically by Universal, features an all-star ensemble including Bryce Dallas Howard, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, and Bryan Cranston.
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Argylle (played by Henry Cavill inside the protagonist’s head) is the name of a superspy character created by best-selling author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). The successful author lives the charmed life most introverts can only dream of – She spends most of her time writing in her remote yet stunning lakeside mansion, where she lives alone with her cat, Alfie.
Due to Elly’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, she has no social life to speak of, aside from regular phone calls with her mother, who also happens to be a fan of her work.
One day, Elly unexpectedly meets real spy Aidan (Sam Rockwell), who is there to protect her from an espionage organization eerily similar to the one she’s been writing about in her book. As it turns out, Elly’s writing is nearly prophetic, and now she’s thrown into the type of adventure even stranger than the fictional ones she wrote for Argylle.
Great visuals, bad everything else
From a visual standpoint, Argylle looks brilliant. It’s slick, and glamorous, and features some impressive and chuckle-inducing over-the-top shots. The action sequences are well-choreographed but perhaps do seem to go on for too long.
Having the film switch to scenes from Elly’s imagination makes sense when she’s at a book-reading event or when she’s at home writing. But the film crosses the line into silly territory when it constantly switches between Henry Cavill’s world and the real world. It’s distracting, quite irritating to watch, and feels like a cheap way for the filmmakers to give Cavill more to do on set.
However, thanks to Argylle’s over 2-hour runtime, the protagonist’s strange hallucinations are not where the silliness stops. Without spoiling anything, the movie features more twists than I could count, with almost none of them making any sense. It’s a convoluted mess of a spy parody that lacks cleverness or plot coherence.
This film’s biggest selling point is its stellar cast, who appear way more committed to their parts than the script deserves. Most of the film centers on Bryce Dallas Howard, who is brilliant as the lead in the first half but feels miscast during the tail end of the film.
Bryan Cranston appears as the story’s villain, whose main motivations remain uncertain even after the credits roll. Catherine O’Hara seems to be having fun as Elly’s overbearing mother. Big-name stars such as Samuel L. Jackson, Dua Lipa, and John Cena are heavily featured in the trailer yet their parts in the actual feature are reduced to mere cameos.
Argylle’s premise of a writer learning how her writing affects the real world was intriguing. Sadly, the actual movie fails to deliver on any fronts. It’s too long, too complicated, and features more plot holes than reasonable suspension of disbelief should allow. This feature might be entertaining enough to stream when it will eventually drop on AppleTV+, but it’s not worth the cinema ticket.