By: Jolie Featherstone
Argylle is the latest rollicking action-comedy from beloved British director Matthew Vaughn, of Kingsman and Kick-Ass fame.
The movie starts with a bang. Debonair Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill in a parodic amalgamation of classic secret agents) is tracking a mysterious young woman (pop star Dua Lipa) with the help of his undercover colleagues, Wyatt (John Cena) and Keira (Ariana DeBose). His larger-than-life escapades include a dance club rendez-vous and a death-defying car chase through the picturesque streets of Greece. Much like James Bond, how could one man accomplish so many bold tasks in a day? Well, Agent Argylle shares something in common with Mr. Bond: they’re both fictional.
Agent Argylle is the lead character of the best-selling book series, and pop culture phenomenon, ‘Argylle’ from the mind of sweet, unassuming author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard). Though Conway has legions of adoring fans and admirers, she’d rather spend her nights at home with the number one man in her life: her adorable cat Alfie.
When Conway suddenly finds herself pulled into a tense situation, not unlike a scene from one of her books, complete with a savvy secret agent (Agent Wilde played by Sam Rockwell), she’s forced to break out of her shell and use some of the research she’s learned as an author over the years to survive.
Argylle is pure Matthew Vaughn: hilarious characters played by an A-list cast with cameos coming out the wazoo (including a Canadian icon), gravity-defying action sequences, toe-tapping dance numbers, and combat scenes you never thought you’d ever witness (who knew figure skating could be so deadly)? Argylle is purely delightful, with over-the-top action scenes and more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at.
Some folks will balk at Argylle’s flash and flamboyance, but the film doesn’t give a flying flip. For fans of the Kingsman series, Kick-Ass, and Bullet Train (stylized adventures and with plenty of winks), Argylle will satisfy. Vaughn fans will also appreciate the little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout (anyone care for a can of Statesman?).
Sam Rockwell steals the show as Wilde. Quick to the draw (both in terms of punches and punchlines), Wilde is a loveable rogue. Bryce Dallas Howard is charming and likable as Conway. A typical homebody at first, we get to see Howard really sink her teeth into the role as the story goes on. Henry Cavill and John Cena get to have fun with their square-jawed, tough-guy personas making their short scenes in the film some of the highlights.
If you thought only Hollywood-grade leading men are able to be the world’s most skilled secret agents, think again. Argylle gives bookish, cat-loving gals a chance to have our own hero. Conway is a bashful writer who adores her cat more than anything, yet she comes to hold her own among ruthless villains. She’s beautiful and not a Size 0, which was deliriously refreshing to see. Howard’s Conway gets to be James Bond in a way we’ve rarely gotten to see a curvy, female lead: she kicks ass, crushes skulls, outsmarts the evil-doers and gets to wear gorgeous evening wear, charm the blokes (and babes), and jetset to beautiful locales. Oh, and she gets to have a dance number with her lover whilst taking down an obscene number of foes. She truly is living the international-woman-of-mystery dream!
We can’t talk about Argylle without talking about the action sequences. The film has hand-to-hand combat (including a great battle scene on a train), bombs, secret lairs, and knife wielding aplenty. Not to mention mysterious substances, ice skates, fire, dance numbers, and many many guns. It’s campy and colourful in equal measure. Some of the more all-out scenes will lose viewers, while others will find it fun. The dance-fight scene is one of my favourite action scenes, possibly ever.
The writing, particularly the dialogue, is noticeably uneven. There are moments when the heavy-handed one-liners are wholly intentional (“Let the lamb roar!”). However, even some of the more expositional and establishing scenes contain blunt dialogue. The film’s charm makes up for it, but it can be distracting. The structure may be hard to follow (or hard to swallow) for some, with multiple heel-turns and twists coming consecutively and quickly. But ultimately, the film is about enjoying the ride.
I sense Vaughn is making a comment about our fascination with larger-than-life espionage characters with densely-thick canon, and how they serve as wish-fulfillment for the everyday person. How many books and films have been made about James Bond and other such characters? How convoluted have all of those stories gotten? And yet, do we care? Absolutely not. We still love returning to these characters. They give us a sense of adventure, but also a sense of comfort. Who doesn’t wish they could outwit their greatest foe, or knock out a bad guy with a single jab? One of the best ways the movie sums this up is in hilarious sequences when we see fictional Agent Argylle – not a strand of hair out of place, not a wrinkle on his shirt, women fawning over him – contrasted with Agent Wilde’s work: grisly, exhausting, bruising. Seeing the contrast up close makes for some good chuckles.
Argylle is brazenly confident and full of charm. If you like your action stylized and campy, be sure to see it on the big screen where you can enjoy it in all its technicolor glory.
Note: Be sure to stick around for the credits scene!
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles