Imagine this, Henry Cavill as a super spy. I know, shocking, right? It’s a role you could never imagine him portraying… except for his turn as August Walker in Mission Impossible – Fallout, and his turn as Solo from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So, this is just another film where Henry Cavill plays a suave, charming, attractive, chiseled, jawline… wait what were we talking about? Oh yes, Henry Cavill’s jawline. Wait, no, focus Rohan, power through, ignore the jawline.
Henry Cavill is the super spy Argylle, and this film is two and a half hours of action and puns, and it’s a raucous ride that you should totally go see, right? Wrong! Plot twist time: Cavill’s not an actual spy; he’s a character in the best-selling spy novel franchise written by Elle Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). She’s written five books in five years, which, as a writer, all I can say is kudos to the next fictional Stephen King, and everything gets flipped upside down with a chance meeting on the train with real-life spy Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell). This serendipitous meeting kicks off a whirlwind adventure full of Planes, Trains & Automobiles (unfortunately, no Steve Martin cameo), which is to be expected from a globetrotting spy thriller. It turns out that Elle’s novels have been eerily predictive, especially in regards to the shady shadow organisation known only as The Division, headed by Ritter (Bryan Cranston), paired with Catherine O’Hara’s evil doctor and their hunt for a Masterkey (the go-to spy macguffin). Aidan convinces Elle that she needs to write one more chapter for her fifth book so they can figure out what happens next.
From London to France and to Arabia, Aidan and Elle race against time to uncover the final clues to this mystery, growing closer in the time-honoured traditions of romantic comedies. Exotic locales are explored, there’s a CGI cat, Samuel L Jackson shows up, and there are plot twists and turns aplenty (sometimes to the plot’s detriment). It’s a bit predictable for my liking, but overall, it’s an enjoyable romp that overstays its welcome just a bit too much to be an instant classic.
Avast ye mateys, from this point onwards, there be spoilers (and possibly more pirate speak).
Okay, now, even though I enjoyed the film, it doesn’t mean I don’t have some gripes. The CGI, especially during the Greece sequence at the start of the film, was noticeably bad. It was like rubber Stretch Armstrong’s being thrown around while the camera rolled. There were a couple of other instances that took me out of the experience, but overall, the tone of the film was corny enough that I could let it slide. Your mileage on this may vary, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the film.
Also, Matthew Vaughn as director and the trailer trumpeting his involvement front and center, it’s inevitable that this film is compared to his other filmography, especially the Kingsman franchise. Unfortunately, the film just can’t match the charm and wit of the original Kingsman, but Argylle does have its fair share of comedic moments. There’s a memorable scene on a train where Sam Rockwell and Henry Cavill’s characters are cut in and out from the point of view of Bryce Dallas Howard. It’s a creative scene with great laughs, mainly thanks to Sam Rockwell’s physical commitment and comedic timing. The character swapping continues for three-quarters of the film, which I liked as a metatextual comment on the blurring of lines between fantasy and reality. It created some comedic sequences, but then the film dissuades itself from exploring that in favour of stuffing more plot twists into the runtime.
That’s what hurts the film most for me. You’ve got Sam Rockwell carrying the film with his charm, great comedic bits, and the sense that he’s loving every minute of acting in this film. You’ve got Bryce Dallas Howard bringing a loveable energy and charm as a fish out of water, similar to Kathleen Turner in Romancing The Stone, and her chemistry with Rockwell is apparent from the get-go. You’ve also got a commendable supporting cast in the domineering Cranston and the guy in the chair, Samuel L Jackson. But the film just can’t seem to make its mind up about what it wants to be. Like an arts student three years into their four-year degree. It starts out as a fish out of water, then goes to an espionage thriller, then it tries to be a heartfelt romantic comedy, but it’s spent too much time pulling twists and turns to build up goodwill to earn anything close to a sentimental ending.
With all that said, however, I left the cinema having felt like I had a good time with the film. So, I’m left at an impasse here. The writing part of my brain was making notes about how all the twists and turns were sucking any sense of stakes out of the film. The writing relied on tropes and clichés so much it felt like I was skimming tvtropes.org, but then we got the final action sequence that was full of colour and joy, and it was just fucking fun.
That’s the mindset you need to have with this film; it’s a bunch of dumb fun, but don’t go in expecting the suaveness of James Bond or the action of Jason Bourne. Switch your brain off and enjoy Sam Rockwell (who wouldn’t) and the pretty colours.
Have you seen Argylle? How does that compare to his other filmography? Let us know your thoughts and comments down below.