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I never expect much from pre-Oscar movie releases, except for maybe The Silence of the Lambs and Everything Everywhere All at Once. Argylle is a mild surprise this February, not the caliber of the two aforementioned-Oscar winners, but enjoyable enough, and imaginative enough, to be mentioned in their presence. If you hope it's better than the Kingsman influence, it is (the same director brings it in), while it can’t beat his genre-subverting superhero take Kick-Ass.


Argylle can be downright silly in the face of a solid premise. It’s a spy spoof, risible along the lines of the recent Knives Out or Murder on the Nile, if they were espionage takeoffs. Introverted novelist Elly (Bryce Dallas Howard) is completing the latest edition of her agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) spy novels when she is spun into a version of her novels all too real as a rogue spy division attempts to kidnap her for her forecasting gift, which has real-world plots that bad boys can use.


With Sam Rockwell playing a non-fictional spy, Aiden, and Bryan Cranston sneaking about as a kingpin mostly wringing his hands at incompetent goons, characters combine the humor of the satire with the tension of a Bond thriller having its tongue firmly in place. Samuel L. Jackson as a key component never hurts any spy satire either.

Besides the humor, director Vaughn and writer Jason Fuchs have colorful set ups and welcome twists with magic-realism touches that complement the conjunction of Elly’s writing and the reality of espionage.

 Too many working parts and characters, together with some cheesy CGI, mar an otherwise welcoming comedy at this dead-zone time of year. After all, how much Oppenheimer and Maestro can you take before you despair about life in general?

 Just to see Cavill in one of cinema’s best hairdos makes you happy to be lying in the lounge chair of a fancy theater, eating your bucket of popcorn, and shouting to your bud while no one else is there. That’s real enough for this hungry critic.

 As fir the cat, you’ll buy the back-pack, guaranteed.




Director: Matthew Vaughan (Layer Cake)

Screenplay: Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman)

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic Park), Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Henry Cavill (Mission Impossible: Fallout)

Run Time: 2h 19m

Rating: PG-13

 John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando