Argylle (2024) Review: A Gleefully Twisty, Though Lengthy Spy Comedy

Matthew Vaughn has a knack for the irreverent spy genre from the gloriously violent, tongue-in-cheek Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) to the revisionist World War I-set prequel The King’s Man (2021). He’s back with yet another spy movie and unfortunately, it’s not the long-awaited conclusion of Harry (Colin Firth) and Eggsy’s (Taron Egerton) story of Kingsman: The Blue Blood. That movie, however, is still in pre-production.

In the meantime, here’s Argylle, a spy movie that it’s best to go in blind with as little info as possible. But here’s what you need to know: the title in question refers to the super-spy agent (Henry Cavill, in a distracting haircut that instantly reminds me of Schwarzenegger in the ’80s, specifically Red Heat). He happens to be a popular fictional character created by the bestselling author, Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). Her fans are eagerly waiting for her next book and one day, while on a train en route to visit her mum (Catherine O’Hara), she encounters an unkempt-looking stranger Aidan (Sam Rockwell). And that’s when the trouble starts as she finds herself in the real world of espionage.

Elly is as clueless as we (the audiences) are since what follows next is a journey full of twists and turns. The kind that Vaughn, who directed Jason Fuchs’ screenplay, is always one or two steps ahead. It’s fun and confusing, where the latter is purposefully designed to keep us disoriented while wondering what’s going on as the story unfolds. Truths are indeed stranger than fiction and nothing is what it seems in Argylle. No doubt the twisty narrative is part of the key highlights that propels the movie forward.

There’s a shade of Romancing the Stone since both movies revolved around an author caught in an unlikely real adventure and of course, the mismatched love-hate chemistry between Bryce Dallas Howard’s Elly and Sam Rockwell’s Aidan is reminiscent of Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in that 1984 genre classic. It’s entertaining seeing the two bickering and playing off each other.

Henry Cavill in "Argylle" (2024)

Henry Cavill has a field day playing the dashing, fictional super spy and I’m glad his ’80s Schwarzenegger-style hairdo doesn’t do all the acting. John Cena and Dua Lipa show up as well and kudos to Vaughn for knowing how to make good use of them. Even Elly’s cuddly Scottish fold cat, Alfie (Chip) belongs to Vaughn’s supermodel wife Claudia Schiffer deserves mention too.

As expected from Vaughn’s spy movie, the action sequences are gleefully over the top with some nifty hand-to-hand combats (the scene in the moving train comes to mind). Some scenes are visually inventive, notably the ones revolving around the colourful smoke bombs staged like a musical and the skating-on-a-pool-of-crude-oil set piece.

And yet, there’s a nagging feeling that the stakes are surprisingly low. The action somehow lacks the visceral flair and tactility seen in Vaughn’s Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Perhaps his decision to make them cartoonish, complete with surprisingly flimsy CGI for a big-budget major production often ruins the excitement. A case in point is the Greece-set chase scene straight out of a cheesy Fast & Furious action set piece.

Argylle also overstays its welcome with a lengthy 139-minute runtime, particularly in the padded-out third act. A tighter pace might do this movie a huge favour while some of the familiar cast such as Samuel L. Jackson and Sofia Boutella are sadly underutilised.

Remember not to leave your seat so fast as Argylle has a mid-credits scene. Let’s just say it’s worth sticking around if you are a huge fan of Matthew Vaughn’s works.