07th Feb2024

‘Argylle’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, Ariana DeBose, Richard E. Grant, John Cena, Tomás Paredes | Written by Jason Fuchs | Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle seems to have spilt audiences and critics all over the world. From being branded as over-the-top fun, to the worst film of the year. While it’s neither of them, at times it can be argued that it’s fallen into each argument.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elly Conway, an author who has written a series of best-selling spy novels, all of which focus on the heroic action hero, Argylle. We first see agent Argylle in action, played by Henry Cavill, who has, unfortunately, been given the worst haircut ever put to screen (yes, even worse than Gale Weathers bangs in Scream 3). Sporting his dreadful haircut he’s on a mission, one that is filled with over-the-top dialogue and action, and some of the worst CGI you’re likely to see, and you soon start to get worried you’re in for a long time in front of the big screen. But soon – relief, you realise you’re in the middle of a cheesy spy novel, it’s being read to us by Elly Conway, and the panic is over. At least you think it’s over. Soon Elly finds herself caught in the real world of espionage when the plots of her books get a little too close to the activities of a sinister underground syndicate.

One man set to take down the syndicate and keep Elly safe is Aidan (Sam Rockwell) a real-life spy who soon shows Elly the truth to espionage. It’s within the first action sequences onboard a train you start to get the sense not all is as it seems. The action gets cut between the real world and Elly’s imagination, through a series of POV shots that in the end take you out of every interesting moment. Sam Rockwell looks exciting and the shots of him in action start to get you to the edge of your seat, before you’re thrown back into it with another POV shot that takes you away from the excitement. In those moments I just wanted to see the action we’ve come to expect from Matthew Vaughn and see Sam Rockwell fight hordes of bad guys. But throughout the film, there’s a sense of the real world getting tangled with the imagery world of Elly’s books. This felt like it never let the action breathe and the moments where the action looked interesting were always caught between these two worlds, taking you out of it all. When the action didn’t do this, it just got too much. There are almost too many winks to the camera in these sequences, almost too many self-conscious and self-admiring nods to the camera. And many of the action set pieces just get bigger and louder rather than any better.

Sam Rockwell and Bryce Dallas Howard do have some brilliant chemistry together and there are moments and flashes of brilliance between them. Sam Rockwell is always entertaining as he dances, kicks, and shoots his way through the film. It’s the moments between their characters that the film really seems to hit a sweet spot of fun spy antics. Moments that even remind you of a good old-fashioned Hitchcock movie, Aidan even mentions ‘Strangers on a Train’ to Elly when the two first meet. The moments between, however, get lost and lose any moments of care we had for the characters. The poor CGI of actors doubles spinning around and making you think you should have a PlayStation controller in your hand only reinforces the ridiculous.

Overall, it’s a shame the film could not have turned out better, it’s by no means the worst thing you’ll ever see and they’ll be no doubt much worse released this year, but it is a disappointment. The stellar cast and second act of the film is enough to show there is something here to work with and many audience members are bound to have fun with the over-the-top action and style of a classic Matthew Vaughn film. In the end though, the film is a classic mixed bag, a Goldilocks of a film you might even say, sometimes too silly, sometimes too slow, and sometimes just right, just never for long enough.

** 2/5

Argylle is in cinemas now.


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