By: Russ Matthews
There are mixed emotions when a new spy comes onto the scene, especially with the inevitable comparison to James Bond.
Yet, the writer/director, Matthew Vaughn, had a successful run with The Kingsman franchise and has been working on his newsest hero project for over three years. With a whisper of Romancing the Stone and a dash of 2022’s The Lost City, he may have unmasked his newest espionage franchise.
Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a reclusive author of a successful series of books based on her titular secret agent named Argylle (Henry Cavill). When her writing inspiration stalls during the completion of her most recent publication, the writer must go to visit her mother (Catherine O’Hara) to have her assist with the conclusion of the manuscript. The author packs up her cat, Alphie, and books a train ticket to her parents’ home in Chicago. Within moments of the trip across the States, Elly meets Aiden (Sam Rockwell), who informs her that he is a spy and that most of the people on the train are looking to kidnap or kill her if she doesn’t follow his instructions. The ensuing battle, that makes Bullet Train look like a Thomas the Tank Engine episode, is only the beginning of an action-filled adventure that will expose her to a world she thought was only found in the pages of her books.
One thing that can be said of Matthew Vaughn is he enjoys keeping the audience guessing through to the end, and he doesn’t mind genre-bending along the way. One might think his latest creation that was penned by Jason Fuchs (Pan) is a side-by-side comparison of the literary and real worlds, but you would be wrong. This labyrinthian tale has more twists and turns than the most elaborate maze, and despite the cast seeminly enjoying everything thrown at them, the story tends to get lost in the madness. Not to give away any surprises, but audiences should know that Henry Cavill is merely a bit player in this comedic espionage expedition. His role is significant, and the James Bond wannabe seems to enjoy every scene he is given despite the horrific hairstyle that is meant for laughs. The focus throughout this film remains on Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell. Two actors who are perfect for their roles and who embrace every crazy aspect that is given them with enthusiastic vigour.
To say they get every possible story device thrust upon them is an understatement. Without giving too much away, Fuchs pulls from the Jumanji playbook and involves dance fighting as a plot point and introduces oil skating to add the spectacle. Yet, in this tangled tale, the one aspect they do get right is the development of the supervillain, Ritter, played with glee by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). As he rounds out this outstanding cast, viewers must admit that all the right players are in place for some ridiculously delicious fun. Still, there may be a few reasons for Vaughn’s film being banished to the black hole of February releases. The first being the need for a good editor and the second was the overuse of monologuing. As the story goes deeper and deeper into this madcapped maze, every new character seems to need to justify their existence with an elaborate speech that includes visuals and an action sequence. All of these speeches and characters do cause things to get a bit overindulgent once you cram all of these components together.
Argylle had the potential to be a welcomed and creative espionage franchise for the world to embrace, and it still may. Yet, time will tell if attention-deficit audiences will endure the intricately involved layers enough to stay off their phones through to the end. If Vaughn can keep this generation’s attention long enough, he may end up with a hit since there is little competition ahead in the coming weeks. At the heart of this film, there is an originality worth discovering despite the extended dialogue we are meant to endure between the action.
REEL DIALOGUE: The innovation of God reflected in humanity
Trust, mental health, and love are just some of the themes provided by Argylle for potential discussion. Still, the topic for Reel Dialogue is going to be innovation.
Despite the unnecessary runtime, this film shows the creativity of mankind from behind and in front of the camera. The innovative process of film directors and their teams to deliver new ways for people to be involved in storytelling. It is inspiring to see how creative individuals can continue to push the edge of expectation and deliver something new for audiences.
This is even shown in front of the camera by depicting humanity’s ability to be innovative in the face of unexpected adversity. We can see how this pair looks to unconventional methods of discovering the secrets that keep them from the truth. It is surprising to find a strong example of human ingenuity in the hall of mirrors of this contorted screenplay, but should it really amaze us?
Looking at history and even the Bible, people have continually taken society to new levels of invention. Many worldwide would credit this desire to create as a family trait God gave us.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” Genesis 1
God began with nothing and brought forward, well, everything. This includes man and woman; the Bible says we bear His image. This may help to answer the question, why is mankind so innovative, because we take after our creator Father. It’s all in the family.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.