Director Matthew Vaughn is one of those directors who, in my opinion, when he hits, he knocks it out of the park. Movie's like 'Stardust', 'Kick-Ass', 'X-Men: First Class' and the FIRST 'Kingsman' movie were all great for what they were. But it feels like once 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' hit, Vaughn has not been able to escape that world of making espionage "hip", so to speak. So at least going by the trailer for this, I knew a bit of what to expect. I went in thinking it would probably be all right as a fun romp, but what I got was... well, I'll just say worse.
Before getting into this, I'd like to bring up Bryce Dallas Howard and the fact that she is one of my least favourite actresses (but a pretty great director!) To be clear, I have nothing against her. But she always seems to end up playing a character I don't like, be it the girlfriend from '50/50', Hilly Holbrook from 'The Help', or Claire of the 'Jurassic World' series. Hell, I consider the 'Nosedive' episode of 'Black Mirror' one of its all-time best episodes, but her character in that is still easily loathed (until the end). The point is, I've just never really seen her in anything where I'm routing for her, and 'Argylle' continues this trend.
Here, Howard plays Elly Conway, a novelist who writes spy novels centred on a character named Aubrey Argylle (Henry Cavill), who we often see in fantasy play-outs, along with, to a lesser extent, his Bond-like femme fatale, Lagrange (Dua Lipa) and his partner, Wyatt (John Cena). And when I say "lesser extent" I mean, if you came here to see them, you're done in about ten minutes. Anyway, Elly lives an introverted life, cozy at home with her cat (the poster-boy for this movie), Alfie. One day her mother (Catherine O'Hara) calls her to pay a visit, so she and Alfie hop on a train.
On the train, she meets a real spy by the name of Aidan Wylde (Sam Rockwell) who, after they get attacked on the train, tells her that a secret group known as The Division, led by Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston) is tracking her because, supposedly, her novels predict future events. From there, the film unfolds with a lot of lazy writing, time-filler, confusion, and so many unnecessary twists and turns that M. Night Shyamalan would look at it and say "okay, calm down." Honestly, this movie is all over the place. It keeps you guessing, sure, but there's just too damn much of it. In fact, I'd even say it starts to feel like a parody after a while.
Going back to Howard for a bit, here, she feels like a helpless character along for the ride who spends the whole time in distress, remind me a bit of Willie from 'Temple of Doom', which is never a good thing. Once again, nothing against the person, but I really wanna see what she can do aside from a character who, quite frankly, kind of annoys me. To her credit, however, she did direct a few solid episodes of 'Mandalorian' and 'Book of Boba Fett', so I'm not just brushing her aside as something "bad". She's also not entirely what makes me dislike this movie, so much as almost everything else about it.
The big question on everyone's mind is probably something along the lines of "what's up with this cat?" Without spoiling anything, I'm just gonna say that for the most part, he's there to be a cute addition to everything going on. There is a reason for him to be there but when you see what it is, you see what I mean when I say "lazy writing." This is from Jason Fuchs, who wrote the screenplay for 'Wonder Woman', so we know he can do better. This just has a lot of situations in which a character needs a quck escape so something is just made up on the spot. It gets to the point of there being no real tension because you just know better.
Going back to Matthew Vaughn now, I kind of hate that he's trapped in this fantasy spy world now. While the first 'Kingsman' movie was great, none of its following chapters quite matched up in quality, and I really wanna see him go back to directing some of those adaptations, because I feel like 'Stardust', 'Kick-Ass' and 'First Class' were among his best works. But even with the way this ends, we can tell he's not done with this spy stuff yet. I guess people still enjoy it, but I feel like there's a lot of what could be that we're missing out on with him. This could have been much better than it was, especially after seeing the mid-credit scene, which just kinda buried the film further.