A smooth talker and a smooth mover on the dance floor, the only area where Agent Aubrey Argylle excels further is in taking down enemy operatives in a fight, on assignment on the coast of Greece with his backup Wyatt waiting nearby while handler Fowler monitors the situation from Washington, another dangerous mission successfully concluded and Elly Conway, author of the hugely successful Argylle series, preparing to submit the fifth novel to her publisher.
Her first reader always her mother Ruth, she regards what Elly conceived as a cliffhanger as more of copout, so Elly dutifully accepts the need to go over the manuscript in person and takes the train across Colorado, sharing a table with a fan named Aidan who claims to be a spy in real life, Elly understandably sceptical until they are attacked by the other passengers in the carriage, she and her cat Alfie only escaping because of Aidan’s considerable close quarter combat skills.
Written by Wonder Woman’s Jason Fuchs and directed by Matthew Vaughn and sharing the same knockabout action comedy space as his Kingsman trilogy with definite clues that they may be intended to take place in a shared universe, Argylle stars Jurassic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly, Moon’s Sam Rockwell as Aidan, Godzilla’s Bryan Cranston as Ritter, head of the organisation after Elly’s inside track on the intelligence community, with A Mighty Wind’s Catherine O’Hara as Ruth and Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill as Argylle alongside The Suicide Squad’s John Cena and The Rise of Skywalker’s Richard E Grant as Wyatt and Fowler.
The contrast between the two men in Elly’s life – not counting the surprisingly patient and undemanding Alfie – as pronounced as her life before and after meeting Aidan, although both are always reliably engaging and entertaining Cavill and Rockwell could not be more different in their physical presence or their performance styles, though Aidan has two advantages in that he is real and more fun to be around, recalling Rockwell’s similarly quirky hitman Mr Right, fast with a gun and on his feet when the music starts.
A fictional character upon whom Elly relies for encouragement and guidance in her increasingly frequent moments of stress as her ordered world unravels in a series of international escapades and narrow escapes, the role of Argylle is not a stretch for Cavill, what amounts to an extended cameo only serving to remind how well suited he was to such shenanigans in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., though he is at least given more to do than Star Trek Beyond’s Sofia Boutella as information broker Saba Al-Badr.
An uneven film of two halves, the midpoint twist revealing the true reason for Elly’s uncanny ability to chronicle the clandestine goings-on in the spy world carries a heavy expositional weight and the frantic pace of the first hour slows noticeably when it might have been better to accelerate before doubts had the chance to take hold, but as a pastiche of the sometimes overly serious spy thriller genre Fuchs and Vaughn have done their homework, playing every cliché with energy while their crosshairs rarely stray from the fast-moving target.
Argylle is on general release and also screening in IMAX