3 out of 5
Argylle follows best-selling author Elly Conway, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who discovers her best-selling book series following a dashing, debonair spy, played in fantasy sequences by Henry Cavill, is actually playing out in the real world. Elly and her cat Alfie find themselves wrapped up in a high-stakes espionage adventure alongside real-life super spy Aidan, played by Sam Rockwell, sent to protect her from a rogue intelligence agency.
The greatest strength of Argylle is its leading pair of Howard and Rockwell. This is a pitch-perfect role for the Oscar-winning Rockwell- a skilled and cocky, yet warm and vulnerable everyman who shows flashes of other great leading men like Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas. As for Howard, she brings a level of authenticity to her role that grounds the silliness of the rest of the feature.
The story outside of the “Romancing the Stone”-esque love story between the leads, however, leaves quite a bit to be desired. When Howard and Rockwell interact onscreen, their chemistry is so electric that it becomes frustrating when the film pulls focus away from them to serve up plot twists with increasingly diminishing returns.
So much of the film’s marketing has been focused on these crazy plot twists, but the thing is, they are far and away the film’s biggest hindrance. Each topsy-turvy new reveal only goes to bloat the film to a whopping 140 minutes, which the film simply does not have the momentum to carry. At one point I turned to my partner and said, with not a little sarcasm - "oh, look, another twist!"
As a result, the primary feeling of leaving the theatre is that of frustration. There is so much good going on in this film- the core conceit, the genre-bending, the delightful cast- that it is hard not to find the film’s lack of focus on those excellent qualities quite disappointing.
Additionally, the film is somewhat hindered by its tamer 12A rating. Most of Vaughn’s prior work, “X-Men: First Class” X-cluded, carried an R-rating that let the action cut loose in how ridiculous it could get, such as the iconic “Freebird” sequence from “Kingsman” or the jetpack sequence from “Kick-Ass.” But Argylle, with all its shootouts, skull-stomping, and fist-fighting, is frequently forced to cut away from the more violent parts of the frame. Now, many 12A action films get away with that sort of thing pretty easily, but Argylle stumbles a bit in its execution, leaving the action sequences hard to follow.
Big shout out to Henry Cavill who gets to play James Bond - kinda - in a role he clearly enjoyed. I'm not sure about the haircut though! Taking inspiration from Bond movies by way of the Mission: Impossible franchise, his opening sequence is by-the-numbers action set-piece with Dua Lipa as his opposition, as it introduces a smooth, dad pun-dropping spy named Argylle, working a case in a picturesque corner of Greece.
Ultimately, Argylle is a perfect example of popcorn cinema. Much like a bucket of popcorn, it is undeniably awesome in the moment, but ultimately fairly empty. But still, like popcorn, it is worth your time and irresistible in spite of itself. And if you think that analogy was spread too thin, it still was not spread nearly as thin as the runtime of Argylle. So grab a big tub of popocorn and enjoy.