Argylle  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Matthew Vaughan, UK/US, 2024, 139 mins

Cast:  Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Sam Waterson, Brian Cranston

Review by Carol Allen

Director Matthew Vaughan of Kingsman spoofy spy movie fame, has now come up with this double sided, genre bending, comedy action thriller that has more plot twists than a giant corkscrew.  

The central character is Elly (Bryce Dallas Howard), bestselling author of a spy novel series featuring a James Bond type character, Argylle (Henry Cavill).  We meet him early on as she reads an extract from her new book to a gathering of fans – an extract which features an outrageous action sultry female spy/OTT car chase and assassination sequence.

Elly herself though likes nothing more than a quiet night in with her cat Alfie.  But all that ends when she meets an initially annoying hairy stranger on a train, Aidan (Sam Waterson) who rescues her from some nasty assassin types.   Thankfully he removes the face fungus before revealing to her that he’s the real life equivalent of the fictional Argylle, a spy whose organisation has noticed that the events in Elly’s novels are happening in the real life spy world and they need her help to find out why.

One assumes Aidan’s with the good guys as he’s very matey with retired CIA deputy head honcho Alfred (Samuel L Jackson), now a wine grower in France – or is he?   While the film’s equivalent of the evil SPECTRE is The Division, which is headed up by Ritter (Brian Cranston). 

Dallas Howard as Elly has an appealing air of vulnerability and innocence, though later on,  when required, she demonstrates some unexpected talents as a feisty fighter.  Cavill does a good rugged spy hero number, nicely matched by Waterson as his more vulnerable real life counterpart, while Cranston is brilliant as the evil villain Ritter, Catherine O’Hara is Elly’s over protective mum and Jackson is pretty laid back as the CIA master.

Typical of the film’s pace and ingenuity is that early scene on the train, which features a cleverly edited sequence where Aidan, defending Elly from the bad guys, keeps morphing in her mind into the fictional Argylle.  But that’s just the beginning for a plot which stretches belief and ingenuity till the elastic nearly breaks.   It’s totally nonsensical tosh, which takes its story to the limit and beyond – the final twist has to be seen to not be believed – and it’s also a bit on the long side but it’s very entertaining nevertheless.

I must also though credit the other star of the film – Alfie, the cat, whom Elly carries with her for most of the film in a backpack with a Perspex window. He is played by Chip, beloved pet of Mrs Matthew Vaughan (model Claudia Schiffer).   Mrs Vaughan got a lot of stick from animal lovers when she turned up at the film’s premiere with Chip in that same back pack.  They should see what he’s called on to undergo in the film.

Mind you, he definitely has a digital double for some of the hairier stunts Alfie is called on to do.  But he does carry out a lot of clever tasks as part of the film’s action.   And even though Chip must know his human’s hubby very well and trust him, have you any idea what a contradiction in terms the words “trained cat” are?    Chip definitely qualifies for the “Best Performance by a Cat” award.