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‘Argylle’ Review: Flying Cats and Rhythms of Love

Dir. Matthew Vaughn — 2.5 Stars

Matthew Vaughn's newest spy movie "Argylle" has finally hit theaters.
Matthew Vaughn's newest spy movie "Argylle" has finally hit theaters. By Courtesy of Universal Studios
By Xander D. Patton, Crimson Staff Writer

Argylle begins in a dimly lit nightclub somewhere in Greece as the confident undercover Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) approaches the elegant Agent Lagrange (Dua Lipa), who is covered head-to-toe in gold adornments. This not being the characters’ first encounters with each other; Argylle invites Lagrange to dance, leading to a disco showstopper that feels akin to the famous scene from “Pulp Fiction” but with a little more flare. Before we know it, this moment turns into an intense action sequence as they try to kill one another, resulting in copious amounts of gunfire, cheesy one liners, and a scene where Argylle — in an attempt to catch his target — jumps a large yellow Jeep from rooftop to rooftop across the dense and picturesque Greek town.

Watching these opening scenes, something feels a little off — everything is a bit too scripted. The characters deliver lines with a vibrato that reminds viewers that they are watching actors, rather than letting audiences be fully immersed into the plot. Visually, the sky is a little too blue, the water too perfectly calm, and everything feels eerily fabricated. The copious amounts of computer generation and color perfecting placed over the whole world makes it all feel off-putting, and frankly, unattractive. It is revealed that there is a level of intentionality behind this as the filter of perfection is stripped away, revealing a fictionalized world within the greater universe of “Argylle.”

With a seamless transition into the “real world,” viewers are introduced to Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), an esteemed author who has just finished writing the ending for the latest installment of her book series about Agent Argylle. With aversions to flying, dating, and seemingly the life of fame, Conway is the epitome of a cat lady whose biggest issue is the fact that she is facing writer’s block. Unbeknownst to her, a casual trip to visit her parents will change her comfortable living habits. She meets an unassuming man named Aidan (Sam Rockwell) who blurs the line between real espionage and the fantasy world which Conway has created.

One of the biggest tools of this film is its ability to change perspective, which lends itself perfectly to the art of keeping secrets — a vital element of the spy world. Sometimes seeing the world through the villainous lens of evil spy organization leader Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston), sometimes from the perspective of Conway’s cat who is just along for the ride, and sometimes from the perspective of the mostly clueless Elly Conway, the changing viewpoints creates fun juxtapositions in the audience’s understanding of the film’s world.

However, this changing perspective also leads to sloppiness from the filmmakers where they attempt to get away with no longer making a visual distinction between the real world and the fictional realm that Conway has created. Due in part to Conway’s unreliable perspective — as throughout the rest of the film, she sees real life spies as characters from her books — the movie eventually adopts the scripted, computer generated, overperfected uncanny valley effect from the beginning of the film, which ultimately drags the movie down.

With a run-time of two hours and nineteen minutes and sequels that the movie makes explicitly clear are on the way, the Argylle series gives itself ample opportunity to develop a compelling narrative and leave an audience wanting more. Unfortunately, the film’s biggest pitfall is that it ultimately feels like it has nothing to say. With a star studded cast — Sam Jackson, John Cena, and all those aforementioned — it is clear that the film’s biggest priority was making a shiny, hollow product to fill movie theater seats, rather than making a film with any distinct features of its own that make audiences feel something.

To an extent, it succeeds. For the most part, the movie is fun, with many over the top, heavily choreographed scenes that keep viewers craving similar antics. In spite of this, a movie that leaves an audience unable to feel anything deeper than a handful of fun moments across a run-time that exceeded two hours might feel more like a waste of time than something to remember.

—Staff writer Xander D. Patton can be reached at xander.patton@thecrimson.com.

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