‘Argylle’ Tries Way Too Hard To Be a Clever Spy Thriller (Review)

by | Jan 31, 2024

While there are plenty of fun moments, you’ll most likely walk out of Argylle frustrated with how disappointing it is.

Director Matthew Vaughn has a certain style when it comes to filmmaking, and we know that style pretty well by now. From his early days with Kick-Ass and then the Kingsman movies, for better or worse they’re always extremely bloody/gory action flicks shot in a stylized way. With Kick-Ass and the first Kingsman, it worked very well and they’re still his two best movies to this day. But with the Kingsman sequel and prequel that followed, the formula has become stale and repetitive. When the first trailer for Argylle debuted, it begged the question: Would this be a return to form for Vaughn or another forgettable spy movie? Unfortunately, it turns out be the latter.

Argylle follows Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a reclusive espionage writer who realizes the current book centered around Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) she is writing is playing out in real time. Sounds like a cool premise, right? Let’s talk about what works well first. The cast is fantastic, specifically Sam Rockwell thanks to his comedic timing and witty demeanor carrying the movie. In addition to Sam, Bryce Dallas Howard and Bryan Cranston are enjoyable as well. Henry Cavill isn’t in the movie as much as the previews led us to believe, but he’s about as effective as his ridiculous haircut. With the main cast of characters that make this film viewable now mentioned, we can further discuss the plot: Aidan (Rockwell) finds and protects Elly from The Division, an organization led by Ritter (Cranston) that is eerily similar to one in her book. But is he (Rockwell) who he says he is? Is she (Bryce) who she thinks she is? Is the sky blue? *Dramatic music plays*….. which leads me to my next point.

Spy movies have an unwritten rule that most people do not know about. The rule is that you are allowed a maximum of two twists/shocking moments in your movie. Anything past that feels like you’re trying way too hard. Let’s just say Argylle passed that maximum within 20 minutes of its almost two-and-a-half hour runtime. There are about a dozen twists in the script and it honestly becomes so annoying by the end and leaves a lot to be desired. As a viewer, you shouldn’t have to wonder who is on whose side the entire movie- only once or twice, max. This was Argylle’s biggest downfall. In addition to this, marketing for this movie has led us to believe there is some big reveal for who the “real” Agent Argylle is. But without spoiling anything, let’s just say this part of the film is nothing unique or clever.

We know that director Matthew Vaughn can make good movies. But Argylle feels like a flick where the studio interfered and it’s obvious in a number of action scenes where you can tell they were toned down. Argylle being rated PG-13 was blasphemy, especially considering that most of Vaughn’s past movies have been a gory good time. But it just doesn’t hit the same when the characters are shooting people in a hallway and we see no blood or gunshot wounds as they fall down. As these action sequences played out, I found myself thinking about that multiple times in the moment instead of enjoying the action, and that is exactly why it’s an issue. The status quo has been set with a Vaughn movie and it shouldn’t be meddled with.

While there are some cool action sequences and laugh out loud moments, Argylle doesn’t crack the code to become a memorable spy thriller. Somewhere on the editing room floor, there is likely a decent movie that no one will ever see. Maybe I’m wrong, but the current film coming out this weekend is suitable to wait and watch at home on a streaming platform instead of rushing to the theater to see.


(out of five stars)