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Critics Have Seen Argylle, And They’ve Got Mixed Opinions About Bryce Dallas Howard’s Spy Caper

 Bryce Dallas Howard in Argylle.
Bryce Dallas Howard in Argylle.

Henry Cavill and Bryce Dallas Howard lead an extraordinary ensemble cast in Argylle, the upcoming spy action comedy from Matthew Vaughn. After much anticipation — and some wild theories about Taylor Swift being connected — the movie is set to hit theaters on February 2. Critics had the opportunity to screen the film ahead of its release, and they’ve got mixed opinions about the meta look at espionage stories.

The story revolves around spy novelist Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose world — as well as that of her beloved cat Alfie — is turned upside down when she’s informed that the plots of her books are being reflected in the real-life jobs of a spy organization. Let’s see what critics have to say, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Argylle. Our own Mike Reyes rates the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, writing that it’s a great option for newcomers to the spy movie genre, although it’s more complicated than expected, and not all of the twists land successfully. Reyes writes:

Always engaging, even when it leaves you scratching your head, Argylle is as cleverly twisted as it is fast moving. Offering a solid foundation for a future that could take so many directions, this could be the start of a continuing brand that endures for some time. The questions it leaves in the air are tantalizing, as there are still a lot of answers left to be uncovered and at least three more novels for Elly Conway to deliver to the world.

Molly Freeman of ScreenRant gives the movie 3 out of 5 stars, saying it’s a fun spoof on the spy genre but has too many twists and turns for its largely one-dimensional characters. Still, the action is sure to keep audiences entertained, Freeman says, writing:

Vaughn is no stranger to the genre, having directed three movies in the Kingsman franchise, all of which are based on the comic series he co-created with Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. However, the twists and turns in Argylle are dialed up to eleven, which makes it both a rip-roaring good time and a little exhausting. Argylle might not be Vaughn's sharpest work, but its exciting action scenes and near-constant twists will keep viewers plenty entertained.

Kevin Harley of GamesRadar rates Argylle just 2 out of 5 stars, suggesting that the film is never as fast or funny as it thinks it is, as it clumsily walks the line between self-awareness and self-satisfaction. Sometimes too slow and other times too silly, Argylle is full of half-baked ideas and no focus, according to the critic, who says:

Some predictable mid-film twists add self-conscious fun, though it’s hard to shake the feeling that films like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent maxed the meta-genre mischief with more invention and elegance. The struggle to integrate the demands of action and knowing comedy weighs heavy as the film crawls to its second half, with a languid trip to a French vineyard stalling the pace at precisely the wrong moment.

David Fear of Rolling Stone addresses the film’s gimmick that suggests moviegoers are in for a huge twist, and without spoiling anything, this critic suggests what Matthew Vaughn doesn’t want people to know is that this is a “stunningly bad movie.” Fear continues:

Knowing what lies inside the soon-to-be-hatched Easter Eggs, we can say that yes, there is indeed a secret at the center of this rehash of other movies involving spy-vs.-spy shenanigans, international intrigue, and triple-crosses. Whether you find it shocking or shockingly predictable is totally subjective. Ditto the lack of concrete confirmations regarding certain aspects of the movie’s alleged origin story. What we can tell you is that there’s another, even more profound revelation long before that ‘gotcha!’ exposition gets dropped. You start to suspect it before you’ve even transitioned out of the first act, and it’s more or less confirmed by the time the big whoa moment shows up. The spoiler is: Argylle is a bad movie. A very, very bad movie.

Leslie Felperin of THR seems to agree with the above assessment, calling the spectacular cast’s performances “mirthless” and “shouty,” with terrible-looking CGI and random plot twists. In Felperin’s words:

Although allegedly made with a $200m budget and featuring what looks on paper like a fancy-pants cast, Argylle may mark a new low [in Matthew Vaughn’s career], with jokes that struggle to land; an attenuated running time that tests patience; cartoonish, stylized violence that is, almost literally, little more than smoke and mirrors; and Apple product placement so aggressive it feels like a kind of assault.

While the critics all seem to agree the plot is overcomplicated with possibly too many twists, they’re mixed on how entertaining the project is overall. If you want to get to the bottom of the Elly Conway mystery, you can do so starting Friday, February 2, when Argylle hits the big screen. Be sure to also check out our 2024 movie calendar to see what else is coming to theaters soon.