‘Argylle’ Review – Spy vs. Why
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the author of the successful Argylle spy novel series. While promoting her fourth novel, Elly gets writer’s block and is trying to figure out how to end her fifth.
With her pet cat Alfie in tow, Elly takes a train to the city, where she intends to iron out the finale with her mother, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara).
On the train, Elly meets a devoted Argylle fan named Aidan (Sam Rockwell), who also claims to be an actual spy. As Aidan takes out the passengers on the entire train, Elly goes back and forth between reality and her imposing and muscular interpretation of Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill).
Now the stories Elly has been writing are coming true, as an organization known as The Division, led by Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston), is searching for the very same Master File that Agent Argylle is tracking in Elly’s books.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman, Kick-Ass, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and written by Jason Fuchs (Ice Age: Continental Drift, Wonder Woman), Argylle somehow provides everything you love about Matthew Vaughn films while also long overstaying its welcome.
Vaughn has described the film as an homage to ’80s action films such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, and that’s understandable. The chemistry between Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell is very Lethal Weapon-esque and is on par with more recent films such as Knight and Day or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Howard’s ability to cry on command brings the anxious aspect of her character to life, and Rockwell’s palpable charisma is always entertaining.
But Argylle falls apart from the first action sequence, overloaded with awkward green screen effects and shoddy CGI. Alfie is noticeably added digitally for the majority of the film. While this makes sense from a “no animals were harmed in the making of this film” perspective, it’s still a floating cat head slapped onto a backpack for most of the film.
The film also goes back and forth between the story Elly is writing and what is happening in real life. These two universes eventually collide and start telling the same story but, at first, the Argylle universe is anchored by only actors standing in front of a green screen. To a certain extent, this makes sense, since Elly is consistently changing her mind, and we’re seeing her work it out in real-time. Unfortunately, this is also horrendously ugly.
There’s the Kingsman sequence of everyone’s head exploding near the end of the film, and it was enjoyable because the use of special effects matched the longevity of the sequence; in other words, it wasn’t incredibly exaggerated (or maybe it was but only for a short duration). Argylle is that Kingsman exploding head sequence stretched out for 139 minutes.
The film drags exponentially, especially in its second half. The dialogue and storyline extend far beyond their means anyway. Elly’s writing seems purposely bad at first, almost like a Stephanie Meyer novel, but you slowly realize that’s how Jason Fuchs writes.
The dialogue seems to be written by Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls — repeatedly verbalizing the same point using similar but slightly different words that hammer a point home; one that was well comprehended by the audience the first go around.
While the action is impressive enough at first, it quickly becomes redundant until it’s just completely ridiculous. The train sequence feels like a throwback to the “Freebird” church sequence from the first Kingsman film, without seemingly being done in one take.
It’s a fight sequence done to licensed music with some slow-motion injected at times. This formula is repeated later on in the movie, with more guns and explosions.
The film’s end has a multi-colored gas dance sequence between Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell, which somehow sees them shooting enemies and dodging bullets without missing a step or getting shot. The gas also becomes heart-shaped as the two leads get more intimate.
Later, Howard slaps some knife blades to her boots and ice skates on crude oil for an absurd sequence that is as weak and wobbly as it sounds. Argylle teases Alfie doing something the entire film: you either expect the feline to attack with its cat-like agility or whip out a gun from its primordial pouch and start blasting.
Making matters even worse, this film has to be the most effortless payday Samuel L. Jackson has ever had. He eats a grape, watches basketball, and sits in front of a giant monitor for the extent of his brief appearance.
Argylle is an action thriller that willingly wallows in goofy, cringey nonsense. Its writing is immature, and its action is overloaded with sloppy CGI and outrageous concepts that are preposterously frustrating.
Argylle (2024), Universal Pictures
- Bryce Dallas Howard/Sam Rockwell's chemistry.
- The train action sequence.
- Amateur writing.
- Supporting cast is mainly uneventful cameos.
- Ugly CGI.
- Jumps into brain-meltingly dumb territory.