“The greater the spy. The bigger the lie.”
I had some reservations about the plot of this story when it was first announced. A reclusive author who writes espionage novels about a secret agent, and a global spy syndicate realizes the plot of the new book she’s writing starts to mirror real-world events, in real time. That was a bit much for even someone with my imagination to digest easily. However, I remained excited. How could I not be? We are talking Matthew Vaughn’s panache, which took Kingsman to great heights. Then there’s Sam Rockwell’s compulsive dancing; I’m honestly starting to believe that he has that his character has to dance written into all his contracts. It’s sort of like Samuel L Jackson and his favorite expletive, which shockingly didn’t happen in this film. Not to mention that this film’s cast’s chock full of Hollywood heavy hitters that include the already mentioned Rockwell and Jackson, as well as Henry Cavill, John Cena, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Bryan Cranston. Still, the plot seemed a bit too farfetched. Too supernatural, given that it is intended to be a espionage thriller. Having now seen it, I can definitively say that it works. The explanation for the main character’s foresight is explained in an elegant and very clever way. However, you will have to see it for yourself. You won’t get a peek behind the curtain from me.
What I will give you is my endorsement of the film, and I’ll attest to its quality. Vaughn truly does know how to make an entertaining espionage film. Admittedly, The King’s Man seemed to be a blemish on his record, but I can comfortably say that Vaughn returned to form with this latest film. Storywise, I enjoyed it from opening credits to the end credits, which I encourage you to stay behind for, as there is a mid-credits scene that hints at the future of Vaughn’s constructed universe (Vaughn-verse, if you will). Elly Conway (Dallas Howard) is the main focal point for the film, an introverted writer who finds herself swept up in an international conspiracy thanks to Aidan Wilde (Rockwell), a man she meets on a train who saves her (he says) from being kidnapped or killed (or both). From then on, Elly is plunged into a covert world where nothing, and no one, is what it seems.
For me, the nothing and no one being what it seemed was my best part. It kept me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing with every new twist and turn. Granted, some twists were stereotypical and easy to spot coming from a mile away. In regards to the main one, which involved the central characters, while I did suspect certain elements about this eventual reveal, and though it was slightly foreshadowed earlier on in the film, I still found the reveal creative and clever. Additionally, there are quite a few reveals that still caught me off guard, so it makes everything balance out.
Interestingly, this film is intended to serve as Vaughn’s ode to 1980s action movies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. There is certainly a buddy-cop vibe between Howard’s and Rockwell’s characters, as they are thrust together and must rely on one another to survive. The pair showed great chemistry very early on. Not initially in the romantic sense, more so in the sense of a big brother being forced to let his little sister tag along on his outing. This was when their chemistry was the best for me. The annoyance that they would get with one another played well into the buddy-cop vibe. As expected, things eventually do start to develop in a more romantic direction, but the manner in which it’s handled felt organic and believable as a natural progression of their dynamic.
To touch on one of the other characters, I’m sure the big one everyone is wondering about is Cavill’s character. From the previews, it is made clear that Cavill serves as a literary character in the world created by Conway, which likely brings about concerns that his role would be minimal and would thereby be wasteful of an actor of Cavill’s character, such as his part being relegated to only the beginning of the film. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, Cavill is not the main focal point, but his role is prominent throughout the story’s duration, and serves as an important element to the story’s main reveal. I talked about them as a pairing, but now I want to delve a bit deeper into them separately. Dallas plays the bookish role well and is very adaptable as there are several themes thrown at her that effectively required her to have a multifaceted approach to her character, and I do believe that she did it justice. Then there’s Rockwell, who in my opinion is the film’s biggest draw. His character was just so enjoyable to watch, as he clearly doesn’t fit the traditional framework for a spy, which is something he immediately calls out himself when he tells Howard’s that’s the one thing her books get wrong. We’ve been conditioned to think of spies, as he points out, as “male models” when realistically a nondescript type is a more realistic candidate for that career path, as spies are supposed to blend in. Rockwell’s Aidan captures the show from the moment he steps onto the train and proceeds to dispatch several of the men as he saves Elly. From then on, he continues to shatter traditional international-man-of-mystery stereotypes. In summation, he was just really fun to watch.
I spoke earlier about Vaughn’s penchant for panache. You know what I mean, like the very unique and vibrant way he exploded heads in the first Kingsman movie or the dance/fight sequence in The King’s Man. In this film, we get a bit of both as he puts on a show in an action sequence that can only be summed up in one word: Whirlybird. You’ll understand when you see it. He does return to the well one too many times, as he has another similar sequence almost immediately after the previously stated one. It’s still entertaining, but it may have played better if the two sequences were further spaced out.
Argylle was a funny and thrilling movie experience that I can see myself repeating in the very near future. Vaughn must certainly chalk another one up in the win column in my opinion, as he returns to form with a film that is reminiscent of the first Kingsman film. Speaking of which, if you are like me and you’ve been awaiting news on the next installment in the Kingsman franchise (Kingsman: The Blue Blood), for which there has been little news about, might I recommend seeing Argylle, a film that does the franchise justice.