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  • Tyler Harlow

Argylle


Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O'Hara, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Ariana DeBose, John Cena, Dua Lipa


Director: Matthew Vaughn


Best-selling spy novelist Elly Conway (Dallas Howard) is celebrating the release of the fourth novel in her popular Argylle book series. Working quickly, she has already almost finished the fifth book, just needing to complete the final chapter. She soon finds her life turned upside down after she is attacked on a train by a shady government agency run by Ritter (Cranston). She is saved by Aiden (Rockwell) a rogue spy who tells her that her novels have correctly predicted real life spy events and this has made her a target.. The pair, along with Elly's cat Alfie, are forced on the run in hopes of finding the truth and stopping Ritter.


These kinds of movies are hard to review because yes, there are numerous twists and turns in the plot. This in itself isn't a spoiler to say because the marketing literally says "Once you know the secret, don't let the cat out of the bag". I don't know how everyone else is but this all but invites me to try to figure out where things are going to be headed just from the trailer. Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class, The Kingsman series) and team have gone to painstaking efforts to protect the film's plot, with Vaughn even saying in numerous interviews that the trailer only has footage from the first half-hour of the movie. There is even a mystery behind the supposed novel this is based on, a real writer named Elly Conway who no one knows what they look like. This has led to internet speculation of who the true author is, with names like Taylor Swift and JK Rowling being floated. All of this, for me, is just clever marketing intended to build hype around the film.


This movie represents everything that is both good and bad about Director Matthew Vaughn. He is a unique film maker who has a very distinct way of filming action. There is no doubt when you are watching one of his films, here toning the raunchiness and graphic violence down from his Kingsman films while still maintaining the well-choreographed and colorfully-filmed action sequences. The action scenes feel like the actors are dancing (sometimes literally) and it all adds to the fun. For me, these aspects make for "good" Matthew Vaughn. Especially in the climax of this movie, I had to appreciate what he tried to do in two of the action scenes. It's all knowingly silly and the movie embraced it beautifully, taking a very tongue-in-cheek approach to many aspects of spy thrillers.


Vaughn also has a tendency to not quit while he is ahead. The movie does run long, and easily cold have trimmed twenty to thirty minutes to run a tight two hours. There is also this weird thing that happens during some of the action scenes where Elly sees Henry Cavill's Argylle taking part in the action instead of Rockwell's Aiden. I get what it's trying to accomplish but it happens far too often. Elly even at one point screams "Why does this keep happening?" and I honestly had to agree with her by that point.


Also, the special effects are bad. Like, real bad. If you saw the trailer for the movie, you saw glimpses of this but hopes that it would be worked out in post before release. Sadly, this is not the case. Especially that CGI cat. It looks worse on a big screen too. In an age where Disney is creating incredibly innovative ways to shoot actors appearing in locations they aren't actually in (The Mandalorian, Percy Jackson), its hard not to notice when it is done poorly. For a movie that carries a reported $200 million price tag, you would expect better. I understand conditions aren't great in post production houses so I don't want to throw any blame on them. Hollywood pay your post production people better. It's just unfortunate for a big budget action thriller that hopes to start a franchise wasn't able to come through in this regard.


The cast is great. Bryce Dallas Howard makes for a likable protagonist and gets to chance to show off her action chops. Sam Rockwell is the star of the show though. He hardly gets to play action heroes and relishes getting to take part in the numerous action scenes. He feels the most at home in Vaughn's quirky action world and makes Aiden very likable and fresh. He and Bryce have great chemistry too. Much to many people's dismay, Henry Cavill is barely in the movie. I'd say he maybe has 10 minutes of screen time at most. Those drawn in by the marketing will be disappointed that the man front and center on the poster is barely in it. A lot of his usage also feels like Vaughn is trying to shoehorn him in as much as possible to make use of his involvement.


This movie is a lot of fun if you let it be. If you can get past the very unfortunate quality of the visuals, there is a lot to enjoy here.


Grade: B

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