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February 2, 2024 / Universal Pictures Canada

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

Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the reclusive author of a series of best-selling espionage novels, whose idea of bliss is a night at home with her computer and her cat, Alfie. But when the plots of Elly’s fictional books—which center on secret agent Argylle and his mission to unravel a global spy syndicate—begin to mirror the covert actions of a real-life spy organization, quiet evenings at home become a thing of the past.

Accompanied by Aiden (Sam Rockwell), a cat-allergic spy, Elly (carrying Alfie in her backpack) races across the world to stay one step ahead of the killers as the line between Elly’s fictional world and her real one begins to blur.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

Argylle is a wickedly fun spy thriller full of Matthew Vaughn’s signature cinematic flair that results in a grand globe trotting adventure with great performances from it’s talented cast and a story that will keep you on your toes and guessing as to what is going to happen next right up until the final scene.

If there is one way to describe Matthew Vaughn’s directorial style, it is over the top. This is the director who literally had crafted an entire sequence in Kingsman: The Secret Service with hundreds of people’s heads exploding in synchronization to “Pomp and Circumstance”. It’s a style that does not appeal to all viewers, but one that I greatly appreciate, especially within the Kingsman franchise as it captures the grand nature of the spy thriller. For his latest film, Vaughn once again returns to the spy thriller genre with an absolutely star studded cast with Argylle. It’s a project shrouded in mystery, but with the film finally hitting theatres, all the questions surrounding the film, its story, and most importantly who the real agent Argylle is, have now been answered. Within minutes of the film starting, it is evident that it is a Vaughn film through and through, calling back both the action films of the 1980s and the goofy but stylish Roger Moore era of the James Bond series, loaded with of action, countless plot twists, and laughter that delivers one of the most unique spy thrillers in recent memory.

The film follows writer Elly Conway who has written the best selling spy novel series Argylle, who finds herself drawn into a world of espionage when she discovers that the next book in her series is mirroring real-world events. The story itself is an original spy thriller not based on any pre-existing material, all from the genius of Vaughn himself, though you can’t help but notice the commonalities it shares in terms of story, villains and twists with many other films in the genre. The narrative itself features numerous plot twists, constantly changing what the audience and Elly know to be true over the course of the film. Once the first plot twist hits, they continue coming at you fast and furiously, and while it is easy to write the film off as using these twists to substitute in place of a more traditional narrative, if you let yourself be taken on this adventure and embrace each plot twist, there is tons of fun to be had with this film. Vaughn has crafted a fun story, full of laughter, action packed sequences, danger and suspense that fits into a larger world that he is hoping to continue (which I would love to see happen), even if the film does feel a little long with a two hour and nineteen minute runtime. You may think you know what is coming having seen the trailer for the film, but Vaughn and his team purposely altered footage in the trailer to keep many of the surprises for the film itself, which is a welcomed treat in a world where trailers can give away the entire film.

It should come as no surprise, but each action sequence that Vaughn has crafted is a high octane, exhilarating and entertaining part of the film. The scenes feature great hand to hand combat, car chases, gun fights and almost anything else you could imagine for a spy genre, each with Vaugh’s flair. Each sequence is a colourful spectacle, full of explosives and slow motion, at times a little too reliant on CGI that make you feel taken out of the film for brief moments, resulting in some of the most exciting action sequences you will probably find on the big screen in the first half of this year. Combined with impeccable sound design and editing that allows you to hear every aspect of these sequences, it truly demands for Argylle to be seen on the biggest screen possible… and preferably in IMAX.

Vaughn’s films have always had a great sense of music to them, and Argylle is no exception to that. Lorne Balfe’s score is grandiose in the best way possible, creating a soaring theme for Elly and Agent Argylle, and intense orchestrations to help raise the stakes during the action sequences. The soundtrack features some excellent needle drops, including songs from Leona Lewis and Barry White, and an outstanding orchestral arrangement of the final song from The Beatles “Now and Then” which plays over one of the most climactic scenes of the film. In addition, Vaughn does not waste the talents of Ariana DeBose, who stars as Keira, providing her with two original songs for the film: “Electric Energy”, which is upbeat, 80s-esque duet with Boy George that is an absolute bop, and “Get Up and Start Again”, a great power ballad that very well could have been the theme song for the film that plays during the film’s credits.

With an impressive cast of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, it comes as no surprise that there are no bad performances in Hollywood. The big surprise is how little screen time some of the cast have. While there is no denying that Henry Cavill is the perfect choice for Elly’s creation Agent Argylle, being a fictional character from Elly’s novel, his role is more limited than the trailers suggested. The same goes for DeBose, John Cena, and Dua Lipa who also all portray characters from Elly’s novel. Catherine O’Hara truly hams it up as Elly’s mother Ruth, delivering some wonderful laughs and stealing the scene everytime she is on camera, while Bryan Cranston is great as Ritter, the sinister leader of the evil organization dead set on finding Elly, and revels in the dastardly deeds of his character.

The film, however, belongs to Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell as Elly and Aiden respectively. Rockwell never misses a beat as Aiden, the spy protecting Elly and trying to get her help to bring down the Division, finding a bumbling comedic energy that creates a spy that plays completely against everything Hollywood has taught you about such a character. He lights up the screen with his presence in each scene, fully committing to the action, his character and the world that Vaughn has created, truly helping to bring the story to life. Howard, on the other hand, is sensational as Elly. Her sweet personality is wonderful for this timid writer, but as her character evolves over the duration of the film, Howard brings to life this strong and powerful female character that becomes the star of the film. It is without a doubt one of my favourite performances of hers to date, and a role in which I cannot wait to see where she takes it next. As a duo, Howard and Rockwell are sensational, creating a dynamic that captures the fun essence of Vaughn’s story while creating an unbreakable bond between their characters which becomes part of the film’s emotional core.

For those who are interested, there is a mid credit scene during the film’s credit, so make sure to stick around for that to see the next project that Vaughn has in the works for the Argylle universe.

After waiting years for Argylle to be released, the wait for Matthew Vaughn’s newest spy thriller has paid off and crossed the first film off my most anticipated films of the year list with complete satisfaction. Despite it being slammed by other critics and some movie goers and a few minor issues, if you know what type of spy thriller you are getting with Argylle and are ready to embrace the fun that Matthew Vaugh and his team have cooked up, you are in for one entertaining ride. Led by two outstanding performances from Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell, Matthew Vaughn’s latest foray into the spy thriller genre is full of jaw dropping action sequences, great needle drops, laughter, and a story full of so many twists and turns that ensures you won’t be able to see the ending coming at all, making Argylle one incredibly entertaining trip to the cinema.

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