The Pitch: Ellie Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives a quiet life, because she gets plenty of excitement out of writing her best-selling series of spy novels, which feature the heroic Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) as he goes on missions trying to bring down a sinister black-ops organization.
What Ellie doesn’t know is that said black-ops organization is real — at least, until a real-life spy named Aidan (Sam Rockwell) crashes into her life. Soon, Ellie’s running from bullets with her beloved cat Alfie in tow, while she and Aidan to try to figure out why the books she writes have an unsettling connection to reality, and whether her fiction might contain the facts they need to stop the bad guys and save the day.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One: Every generation, give or take, gets a fresh new iteration on Romancing the Stone, though technically Argylle is the second in as many years (The Lost City — underrated!). Yet while this premise might be as familiar as an old sweater, it’s enhanced by the ways in which director Matthew Vaughn (the Kingsman films) incorporates his signature flare for artful violence, delivering 2024’s first truly enjoyable action film. (It’s not even February yet, but still.)
Because Jason Fuchs’s script proves restless with its need to keep delivering more and more twists, it’s difficult to dig into too much of the plot here — though while the twists are pretty nonstop, they also don’t deliver too many dramatic shocks. Instead, the intention is pure easy-going crowd-pleasing, with just enough inventiveness in the staging to keep things lively.
Dance Sam Rockwell Dance/ Feel That Rhythm In Your Pants: Some filmmakers who usually deliver films in the R-rated arena can end up feeling muzzled when forced to deliver something PG-13. However, Vaughn takes this as an opportunity to play up the cartoonish aspects of his action style, delivering set pieces that bring with them plenty of goofy over-the-top charm.
Also, at times Vaughn literally stages them like a dance, which is possibly the smartest move a filmmaker can make when noted good dancer Sam Rockwell is a member of the cast. Only enhancing this aspect of the film is the fact that these sequences are accompanied by disco music, which makes no sense in context: In the press notes, Vaughn explains that to ensure a “feel good” vibe, he turned to “the most feel-good music I could think of, which, for me, is disco,” which doesn’t necessarily enhance the film on any thematic level, but adds to the surface-level pleasures (for disco fans, anyway).