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Spy Games and Star Power: The Thrills and Wit of ‘Argylle’

Matthew Vaughn unleashes his imagination, tied to today's James Bonds, in a film that's both ironic and smart. Featuring a star-studded cast from Henry Cavill to Dua Lipa
Argylle (2024)

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Matthew Vaughn unleashes his imagination, tied to today’s James Bonds, in a film that’s both ironic and smart. Featuring a star-studded cast from Henry Cavill to Dua Lipa.

The new canon of our era’s action films, it’s often written, belongs to the John Wick saga. Gone are the days of no-frills brawlers, the progeny of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Today, fights resemble dances, closer to musicals than to relentless gunfights. Director Matthew Vaughn proves he can capture the genre’s nuances, and with Argylle, he chooses to dare, to push the envelope a bit further.

In a particularly colorful sequence, Sam Rockwell and Bryce Dallas Howard perform in an elegant music video with a romantic spirit, yet with a high mortality rate. Later, the slaughter is served like an elaborate choreography on skates. Music is a character (steer clear of music boxes), setting the pace within the narrative.

Vaughn, the creator of the Kingsman epic, has managed to create a very recognizable stylistic signature, attentive to the present. He loves comics, pop culture, comes from Stardust (not coincidentally created by Neil Gaiman), Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class. And he’s obsessed with spies. With Argylle, he realizes his most ambitious project, which intelligently satirizes current cinema. He irreverently plays with Christopher Nolan’s narrative complexities, jests with Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and Frederick Forsyth. And reflects with biting passion on everything that today is “meta”.

The author communicates with the hero he created, fiction blends with reality, the written word turns prophetic, and there’s a strong exaltation of the dream world. Vaughn finally returns to entertain after the misstep of The King’s Man. He remains faithful to his universe, to the themes that characterize it, and directs a resounding madness. Elly Conway is a successful writer, from whose mind sprang the pentalogy about the 007 Argylle. Tall, handsome, dashing, he rebels against his employers and prepares to save the world. Stereotypes are played with, until the existence of the unassuming Elly crashes against an unconventional man, on a train about to turn into a hellish machine.

The cinematic tributes are endless. And even the presence of Henry Cavill winks at Mission: Impossible. In the successful Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he was at the center of a brutal brawl with the unfortunate Tom Cruise. Argylle is a rollercoaster full of surprises, aiming to push beyond the limit, and is less superficial than it seems. Take it or leave it, recommended for cat lovers. With a parade of stars, from Samuel L. Jackson to Bryan Cranston, passing through Dua Lipa. The next two chapters are already on their way.

Gian Luca Pisacane

Cinematografo.it, January 31, 2024

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