Elly Conway is a successful, world-renowned, romantic spy thriller author. She has legions of fans for her books, which tell the story of super-spy Argylle. Argylle is suave, tough, sophisticated, articulate, and romantic.
Essentially, he is everything that Elly is not. Quite the opposite of her characters, Elly lives alone with her pet cat Alfie. But she is quite content with her life, at least until she meets Aidan.
Aiden reveals that he is a real spy and that Elly’s novels have the full attention of the spy community, both good and bad. It turns out Elly’s novels have predicted a number of real-world events, and her novels are seen as predictors for what will happen next.
So the good guys eagerly await her next novel while the villains, who call themselves “The Directorate,” want to stop her from revealing their plans. Aiden informs Elly that The Directorate has finally decided to take action against her, and assassins are on the way.
Aiden and Elly go on the run and begin trying to track down a hacked file that will reveal the identities of the entire Directorate. But she will soon learn that she cannot trust anyone.
“The bigger the spy, the bigger the lie.” And when she finally meets the real Argylle, it will be the biggest shock of her life.
Argylle is big, dumb, silly, and a lot of fun. And a lot of what makes it fun is the charm of the cast. Bryce Dallas Howard is fantastic as Elly Conway. She’s an everywoman that audiences can relate to. Howard is funny, handles the action well, and is likable.
And the fact that she doesn’t look like your typical Bond babe makes her even more easy to warm up to as she’s thrown into these extreme circumstances. Howard continues to impress with her career, both behind the camera and in front of it. To transition from directing The Mandalorian episodes to leading a spy comedy is quite impressive.
Howard is well paired with Sam Rockwell as Aidan. He, too, is not your typical super-spy actor. But he’s funny, handles the action quite well, and delivers one-liners that make him equally likable when paired with Howard. The two together look and sound like a Mom and Dad on a spy adventure, and it makes all of the absurdity of the plot all the more fun.
The rest of the cast is equally strong. Henry Cavill is great as Argylle. While there were always rumors of Cavill being a good James Bond candidate, this gives you a taste of what might have been. But he gets to explore that spy world with a healthy dose of comedy thrown in, and it works. It feels like he’s having a lot of fun here.
Dua Lipa, in her brief time on the screen as Lagrange makes a great stereotypical femme fatale. It will be interesting to see if this opens other acting doors for her. Throw in Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cena, and Sofia Boutella, and you can’t help but love the supporting cast.
Argylle is cut from the same cloth as Romancing the Stone. Both follow an author thrown into the adventures she only fantasized about. But while Romancing the Stone leaned into the Indiana Jones adventure drama, Argylle leans into the spy genre and takes full advantage of the tropes associated with it. We see exotic travel, big action scenes, endless waves of goons attacking, fancy clothes, and more, all with the neurotic author in tow. It provides plenty of opportunities for laughs along the way.
The action scenes are well-choreographed and memorable. In some, Elly alternately sees Aiden and her fictional character, Argylle, in the fights. One moment, Cavill is punching the bad guy; the next, it’s Rockwell getting punched. It makes for a frantic, fast-paced fistfight that also gives Cavill fans more of what they want to see.
There are other big, crazy, visually impressive action scenes choreographed like dance numbers and scored with disco music. I won’t get into details because I don’t want to spoil some of the surprises, but they are the moments Argylle will really be remembered for.
One of the tag lines for this movie is, “Once you learn who Argylle is, don’t let the cat out of the bag.” That’s true. Through the course of the story, I had theories about who the real Argylle may be. None of them proved to be true. It was a fun twist that gave the final act of the film a boost of energy that the story needed.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
Like Matthew Vaughn‘s Kingsman films, Argylle can be a bit of an acquired taste. They’re big, loud, over-the-top, physics-defying, and cartoony. You’re either up for that or not. I was prepared for it, but I can see how it could turn off a lot of audiences.
I also find that Vaughn’s films have great premises, but the execution isn’t always perfect. Pacing can be uneven, the story can have big plot holes, and he doesn’t always stick the landing in the finale. Argylle is no different.
I also think Argylle may not appeal to younger audiences. I think viewers over 40 will get a kick out of it more simply because they identify more with Rockwell and Howard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems clear that Argylle was meant for a wide audience, even with rumors that Taylor Swift wrote it. It may not be as wide as Apple Original Films may have intended.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
I feel like Argylle makes a fun date movie for Valentine’s Day. It’s big, cartoony, and goofy, but it is fun, and the cast makes it a lot more palatable. Older audiences may enjoy it more, but it is worth seeing on the big screen before the twists are spoiled for you.
ARGYLLE REVIEW SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10
Opening in theaters on Friday, February 2, 2024, Argylle is rated PG-13 for strong violence and action and some strong language.
Scott Chitwood has been writing about film online since 1995. He is a co-founder of TheForce.Net, IGN Movies, and the Houston Film Critics Society. Scott wrote for ComingSoon until joining Vital Thrills in 2020. Scott is also the publisher of Red 5 Comics and lives in Houston, TX.