A popular spy novelist discovers that her new novel might not exactly be fiction in Argylle. Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the author of a successful series of spy novels about Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his partners Wyatt (John Cena) and Keira (Ariana DeBose). Elly suffers from writer's block coming up with the ending of her fifth novel in the series. On a train ride to visit her mother Ruth (Catherine O'Hara) for help, Elly encounters real-life spy Aiden (Sam Rockwell), who tells her that her novels have predicted real-life events, particularly the corrupt spy syndicate run by Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston). Elly reluctantly teams with Aiden to locate the Master Drive containing the names of all the corrupted agents and get it to former CIA deputy director Alfred Solomon (Samuel L. Jackson).
Argylle is an espionage action-comedy directed by Matthew Vaughn (The King's Man) and reportedly based on an upcoming spy novel of the same name by a real Elly Conway, despite the film only crediting Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) as the sole writer. The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) as the film's version of Conway, who apart from writing successful spy novels, lives a lonely existence at her Lakeside Cabin with her cat Alfie while listening to The Beatle's song “Now and Then,” as she works on the latest adventure of Agent Argylle.
The opening sequence of Argylle takes place during the climax of the fourth novel as Agent Argylle, played by Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) chases down rival spy Lagrange (Dua Lipa), only to learn that she is taking her orders from Director Fowler (a cameoing Richard E. Grant), the boss of both Argylle and Wyatt, played by John Cena (Fast X). Back in the real world, Elly learns that this corruption isn't that far from the truth when she is saved from capture by real-life spy Aiden, played by Sam Rockwell (See How They Run). As Elly joins Aiden on his hunt for the Master Drive, she also comes to learn who the true Agent Argylle is.
My Thoughts on Argylle
Matthew Vaughn has been seriously going down the mystery box route with Argylle, which includes a marking campaign stating “Not to Let the Cat Out of The Bag” and the tagline “The Greater the Spy, The Bigger the Lie.” Even the insistence that the film is based on a novel that currently doesn't exist adds to the mystery of it all. Probably the biggest bait and switch of the film is making it seem like Henry Cavill's Agent Argylle has a bigger role when in actuality he only appears in scenes dramatizing the novels written by Elly Conway, as well as some hallucinations she has after encountering Aiden, which results in a couple of cleverly edited action scenes, which switch back-and-forth between Cavill and Sam Rockwell.
For much the the first half of Argylle, the film positions itself somewhat like an espionage take on the film Stranger Than Fiction. Then comes the first big twist, as the reveal of the “Real Agent Argylle” is made roughly halfway through the 2h19m film, which will likely be viewed as either a clever twist or a predictable copout. However, clearly, Matthew Vaughn doesn't want you to take the film too seriously, particularly in the third act, which includes a shootout involving multi-coloured smoke bombs and a knife fight that involves “skating” on an oil slick.
Altogether, I believe that Argylle ends up being a fun-to-watch send-up of espionage films. While I am not sure about the film setting up a possible new franchise, I thought that as a one-off, it was an enjoyable watch. Now if I can just wrap my mind around the film's mid-credits scene…