REVIEW: Argylle (2024)

After that fun, zippy trailer, Argylle is a massive disappointment, a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to say or how it wants to say it. The leads – two actors I generally like – are painfully miscast, the tone is all over the place, and the only good parts are the fantasy sequences. The premise is great, but the execution is a complete misfire, and it’s amusing to think of Matthew Vaughn’s criticisms of modern cinema when this is his counter to them.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the author of a popular series of spy novels starring the James Bondian secret agent Argylle (Henry Cavill). On the cusp of finishing her fifth Argylle book, she’s suddenly swept up in a real spy adventure, traversing the world with an agent named Aidan (Sam Rockwell) as they fight assassination squads and look for a MacGuffin that can bring down a rogue intelligence organization.

Argylle peaks with its opening sequence, and while that’s true of some decent films, this one falls down a tall mountain. Right off the bat, we’re on an adventure with Argylle, and these ten minutes are everything you could want in a spy fantasy: they’re fun, fast-paced, sexy, exhilarating, tense, and all the things the James Bond movies once were and will never be again. Cavill is perfect in this role (despite his 90s Arnold Schwarzenegger haircut), and the other actors fit the tone well, especially Dua Lipa, who could teach a class in sultriness. Argylle grabs you instantly; unfortunately, it lets you go almost as quickly, and you soon realize the rest of the movie is not what this scene is selling.

That would be okay if Argylle were trying to make a point about fantastical spy fiction, such as that the real world doesn’t work the same way. But it isn’t; the actual spying in Argylle is no different from Elly’s books, with over-the-top fight scenes, stunts right out of a Fast and Furious movie, evil organizations with unlimited reach and sci-fi technology, and all the staples you either love or hate. I love them, but I want the story around them to make some kind of logical sense, even if it’s defined in fantasy terms. It seems, then, that Argylle is saying Elly has unwittingly written about the real world, and that would fit if it weren’t for Sam Rockwell.


I hate saying this because I think Sam Rockwell is a terrific actor, but he’s all wrong for this movie. He plays Aidan, who is effectively the real-life Argylle, the reality to Argylle’s fantasy. And that makes sense; he’s a schlubby, funny-looking guy, whereas Henry Cavill is tall, handsome, muscular, and charming. But this conflicts with the rest of the world Argylle sets up; the only spy trope that isn’t real is the notion of a good-looking spy; every other aspect of the fantasy exists as the world beneath our own. So… why? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have Henry Cavill show up as Aidan to make the point that Elly’s fantasy world is a reality? Argylle can’t commit to one or the other.

Part of me wonders if Rockwell understood this because he seems bored in Argylle. There’s no life to his character, no spark, even when he’s supposed to be in his groove fighting bad guys and jumping off buildings. The same is true of Bryce Dallas Howard; at first, she’s good as an ordinary woman caught up in a wild spy adventure, but either she loses that spark or the movie lets her down because she becomes a bore as well. And these two have no chemistry whatsoever, which is the larger issue with Howard; they never click the way the leads of a film like this must, so we don’t care what happens to them.


I didn’t care about much of anybody in Argylle outside of the cat. The movie is full of great actors; Bryan Cranston is the villain, Catherine O’Hara is Elly’s mother, Samuel L. Jackson is a spymaster, and they’re adrift in a film that doesn’t know what it wants from any of them. A problem I had with Kingsman: The Secret Service, another Matthew Vaughn spy movie, is that its tone is wildly inconsistent, shifting between straight spy story and parody so often and so quickly that it never feels like either one. Argylle takes that up several notches to the point where it becomes dull (unlike Kingsman, which I enjoyed despite its flaws). This one feels similarly caught between the two tones, but in contrast to Kingsman, it doesn’t do either well; it’s not funny enough to work as a comedy (aside from a few lines from O’Hara because she’s a brilliant comedic actress), and it’s not thrilling or involving enough to be a good spy movie. By the time Argylle is halfway over, you just want it to end.

But it doesn’t; it goes on seemingly forever, making the same points about the characters over and over, each time less interestingly than the last. Argylle stuffs more plot than it has story into two hours and twenty minutes, and it doesn’t earn the length with fun action or engaging characters. The former is particularly unfortunate because Vaughn has crafted some bravura fight scenes in his previous films. The kill-frenzy in the church in Kingsman, the assault on the penthouse in Kick-Ass, and the fight with Rasputin in The King’s Man (a very underrated movie) are stellar sequences that get the blood pumping despite how stylized they are. (It helped that they involved characters the films made us care about and root for.) Nothing approaching those kind of visceral thrills happens in Argylle, even in the fun opening scene. It’s all goofy, it looks fake, and nobody feels like they’re in danger. Additionally, the music choices Vaughn makes are odd; I’m fairly certain each fight scene is set to the same song, and if not, they all sound the same. It’s lazy, just like the rest of Argylle.


Argylle is the latest movie that feels like nobody involved cared about it. In some roles, it cast the wrong actors, and it doesn’t know what to do with the right ones. The action is sterile and boring, with no stakes or energy. The tone is split in two, and each half fails. When it ends, you’ll wish they’d just made a movie about the Argylle of Elly’s books.

Argylle (2024)

Plot - 5
Acting - 6
Directing/Editing - 5
Music/Sound - 5
Action - 6



Argylle is a mess with miscast leads, a convoluted tone, boring action scenes, and flat humor. It’s easily Matthew Vaughn’s worst movie.

Comments (2)

February 2, 2024 at 7:54 am

Yeah, Kingsman stuck with me. I liked it. This one looks kind of cringe like Bullet Train, which I never saw. Gotta say that Ungentlemanly Warfare looks much like this Argylle and has me worried about Cavill’s career. He had it all with Wither and Superman and that was taken from him. I actually did like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. though, and didn’t know that was Ritchie, too, so maybe.

    February 3, 2024 at 7:52 pm

    I liked Bullet Train. Despite it’s heightened reality, it has something to say, and the them is very consistent throughout the movie and with every character. But this is just bad; during one of the action scenes towards the end, I started looking at my watch.

    I really wish Cavill could be in something great. He’s the best part of Argylle, aside from Catherine O’hara and the cat, but he’s not in much of it.

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