Yep, ‘Argylle’ sure is a movie

By Ben Konuch

I really wanted to enjoy “Argylle.” You mean to tell me that we were getting a new spy thriller/comedy from Mathew Vaughn, the filmmaker behind the “Kingsman” franchise, with Henry Cavill, John Cena and Bryce Dallas Howard? Count me in! The trailers looked funny and its premise sounded intriguing, so I was actually a little excited to see what “Argylle” would end up being. I attended an evening showing as a date night with fairly middle-ground expectations, expecting an old-school style action comedy in the vein of “Knight and Day” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” but the film that “Argylle” turned out to be was an overstuffed and overly-confusing mess that considered itself far smarter than it was. 

“Argylle” follows Elly Conway (Howard), a mild-mannered novelist responsible for the Bond-esque spy novel series “Argylle,” which sees a superspy traveling around the world to fight bad guys, seduce enemy agents and look dashing while he does it. This is where the film shows most of its cleverness, showing Elly as she struggles to write the final twists of her latest novel as well as cutting into a world of her imagination as we see Argylle (Cavill) act out the words and plot points as she writes them. It’s a clever albeit cliched gimmick, but it’s effective in showing how Elly sees the world of espionage from her novels in the same way that she sees the real world. 

These scenes of Agent Argylle dramatically saving the day are so over-the-top, I actually laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of them. This gives the film a memorable opening sequence that nails the comedic, parodying nature of “Argylle’s” tone. As we follow Elly in her writing endeavors the film mellows out until the first main plot point is revealed: real-life spies are trying to kill Elly because she’s somehow managed to predict actual events in the world of espionage with her novels. 

As a real-world, shady government organization pursues her, Elly is protected by real-life spy Aiden who serves as a grounded foil to the type of spies Elly wrote about in her novels. This once again leads to some clever filmmaking and jokes, as action scenes are seen from Elly’s eyes in which she occasionally sees the overly-dramatic and ridiculous fake Agylle in place of Aiden, cutting from the real spy fighting desperately for his life to an imagined Argylle charming his assailants with his manly, unbelievable charisma.

Ah yes, the classic tale of spy meets writer meets… cat?

While nothing spectacular and far from reinventing the spy comedy genre, I genuinely enjoyed this first half of the film. “Argylle” starts cliched, yes, but its cliches and tropes operate more like a familiar, comforting old friend coming to visit for a while than outright ripoffs of past ideas. It may not be the most original idea I’ve seen in a film, but great acting and smooth camera work from director Mathew Vaugh kept “Argylle” entertaining and even somewhat exciting. To my surprise, the first half of the film concluded with a truly shocking twist that I had no idea was coming and almost elevated “Argylle” from the ranks of dumb, fun “popcorn flick” to a solid watch.

And then came the second half.

When I say that “Argylle” is at war with itself, I mean it in the sense that I walked out of the theater feeling like I watched two separate films mashed into one. The first half sets up a familiar yet entertaining premise that works because of solid cast chemistry and exciting action, but the second half of the film slams the gas pedal to the floor to test just how many twists and fake outs could fit into a spy film. That genuinely good twist I mentioned? It’s completely undermined and explained away by two more separate twists later in the film that try to redefine what the film is even about and fail to do so miserably. 

This overreliance on shock value and trying to subvert your expectations at every turn left “Argylle” an empty, overinflated mess that cares more for cheap twists than a coherent story. I still enjoyed my time with the film in the way that watching a dumpster catch on fire is still technically entertaining, but I mourn the film that “Argylle” could have been if the entire length was the same genre and plotline as its first half. Pair this disappointing lack of direction with an overinflated runtime and standout stars like Cavill and Cena reduced to mere guest appearances (despite being heavily featured in the film’s marketing as the MAIN leads), and “Argylle” ends up a disappointingly average waste of a fun idea.

I give “Argylle” a 5/10

“Argylle” is now showing in theaters

Ben Konuch is a junior Strategic Communication student and one of the A&E editors for Cedars as well as the social media lead. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and swing dancing in the rain.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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