The Matthew Vaughn film features a star-studded ensemble, but the generic tropes and convoluted plot shackles the film’s potential
Story: Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a popular spy novel writer, struggles with writer’s block to complete the final chapter of her fifth novel in the bestselling Argylle series. But when a real spy, Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell), rescues her from assassins, she realises that her stories are happening in real life.
Review: The action spy comedy has become popular in recent years. and Argylle director Matthew Vaughn is credited with helming one of the most popular entries to the genre – Kingsman: The Secret Service. While the first film of the Kingsman franchise is widely regarded as one of Vaughn’s best works to date, Argylle falls short in realising its potential.
The features an opening scene where the adventures of Elly Conway’s protagonist from her novels, agent Argylle, is involved in a car chase with Dua Lipa’s character, Lagrange. Fans of the hit video game Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will recognise the location in the scenes as very similar to the one where Nate Drake is involved in a dangerous car chase. As the narrative progresses it is revealed that the lives of Agent Argylle and his colleagues are premonitions to real espionage incidents across the globe.
The action and comedy facets of the film are at their best in the first act. However, as the plot divulges more twists and turns at every corner, it becomes murkier by the second. Sam Rockwell, an Academy Award-winner, carries the film on his shoulder, with a little help from Henry Cavill. However, Bryce Dallas Howard as the lead star is too generic and her damsel-in-distress trope, for a vast majority of the narrative, becomes repetitive. Not even Hollywood royalty Bryan Cranston and Catherine O’Hara have been afforded the flexibility to showcase their remarkable talent, as a result of poorly-written characters. The other notable names in the film’s extensive ensemble such as Dua Lipa, John Cena, and Sofia Boutella barely feature for a few minutes in the film.
Argylle's most disappointing flaw is that it is devoid of Matthew Vaughn’s signature filmmaking flair which audiences have become accustomed to over the years. Unlike his iconic films such as Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, his latest is a generic action comedy. Of course, there are instances where the fight scenes do offer a glimpse of Vaughn's signature style, but the complete lack of blood and gore takes away the immersive aspect of the storytelling. Despite the protagonists dropping a number of bodies in their adventures, the film's 12A rating limits it from being completely convincing.
The film’s runtime of well over two hours is certainly not warranted, and climactic fight scenes are painstakingly long. However, there are moments of humour that the film executes to great effect, which is largely thanks to Rockwell’s performance. But even Rockwell is unable to elevate the third act which is riddled with plot holes that even render the climatic twists become far too obvious. The mid-credits scene indicates that Vaughn has plans to continue the story as part of a major. However, one can only assume that it hinges on the success of Argylle.
Verdict: The Matthew Vaughn film, Argylle, attempts to pay homage to successful spy comedies, but the film’s convoluted plot and derivative set pieces render it bland. Sam Rockwell delivers the only standout performance, despite the film boasting a star-studded ensemble. Lead star Bryce Dallas Howard, and other prominent stars such as Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, and Catherine O’Hara are let down by a poor screenplay.