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'A Kingsman: The Secret Service' Lover’s Take on 'Argylle': Why You Should Watch Both, by Megan Harrison

DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers for Argylle (2024) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)


How do you go from making a successful British spy series whose first film earned $414.4 million to making another spy film 10 years later that sank to a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? 


Just ask filmmaker Matthew Vaughn. 


Argylle, the director’s most recent film, was released in theaters on February 2, 2024. It follows mystery writer Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) as she releases the fourth book in her spy series (named after agent Argylle) and finds out that everything she’s written thus far in the series is real. As she struggles with a cliffhanger on the unreleased fifth book, she’s thrust into the world of secret spy organizations who are after her because they believe she has the key to their very real villainous endeavors.


The film, which contains a star-studded cast including Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Henry Cavill and more, was one of the most highly anticipated movies of early 2024. The trailer showcased every major star while also hiding its mysteries behind the purple and gold patterned title card. Personally, I was very excited to see it, knowing Vaughn’s previous work Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of my favorite movies of all time. 


Imagine my surprise when the reviews started rolling in, and… They were all awful. 


Every. Single. One. Like, worse than I’ve seen for much recently. Except for Madame Web.


These reviews made me a little more nervous walking into the theater that Friday to see it. I reminded myself to keep an open mind, hoping that the one-and-a-half star reviews weren’t truly reflective of what the movie was. 


Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. But, upon watching Argylle, I concluded that most people’s harsh opinions were wrong. 


Argylle isn’t a perfect movie. It went on for a little too long when it didn’t need to, and the twists and turns seemed to trample over each other clumsily with each passing second. The characters were lovable but didn’t hold my attention as well as the characters in Kingsman did. My expectations overall were far higher. 


However, it definitely deserved better than a one-and-a-half star review. I’ve seen worse movies. I could easily argue that Wolf of Wall Street is a worse movie, for example, but that might be a bit controversial. I think those that hated Argylle so much missed the movie’s point.


Like, yes, I can acknowledge that it’s a little cheesy that Elly skates across a floor of spilled crude oil with knives in her hands to escape the evil lair of her fake father, who hypnotized her after an ice skating accident. 


I know. Sounds a bit out there, right? 


These kinds of scenes are the pinnacle of action films. You see them in movies that transcend generations. The big fight scenes are choreographed and always include the same elements. They’re well made, sure, but they are a bit corny. 


I thought Vaughn’s direction and creative decisions were meant to not only exemplify the genre of action films, but also to make fun of them a bit. He pulled out all the stops for a film that flopped in the box office, but I could tell that he had an amazing time doing it. Argylle was camp: It was a contribution to the genre that didn’t take itself too seriously. 


I believe its worst critics took the film too seriously. Vaughn may have made these plot twists and over-the-top missions to critique the action genre, or they could have even been created out of pure enjoyment. 


Either way, I enjoyed myself in the theater and happily gave Argylle a four-star review on Letterboxd. I’d recommend watching it for many reasons, but the reason I enjoyed it most extended beyond its plot and cast members. 


The movie had so many similarities to Kingsman: The Secret Service


Kingsman follows a similar secret agent plot in England. Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young man headed for jail time, is recruited into Kingsman: a secret spy organization that his late father was a member of. This first film follows Eggsy and other Kingsman recruits as they go through training while also attempting to stop Richmond Valentine from unleashing a dangerous monopoly upon the world. 


I called these similarities the “Matthew Vaughn-isms:” traits that appeared throughout the film that I recognized from his previous works, specifically Kingsman. They’re minor things, but as an avid Kingsman fan, they’re what really kept my attention through all of Argylle. 


(Let it be known that I also enjoy Kingsman much more than the average person. This article is yet another plea for my friends to finally watch it). 


To start, Vaughn has a very specific shooting style when it comes to his fight scenes. The action moves with a sharpness between characters and emphasizes inanimate objects, an uncommon approach in other action films. The camera moves quickly, yet there’s no continuity loss. If anything, this technique makes the scenes flow better. 


Both Argylle and Kingsman also incorporate color into their final battles. In Kingsman, enemy soldiers explode into bright plumes of pastel-colored smoke that move together in patterns in time with orchestral music. Argylle brings these bursts of color back when Elly and Aiden (Rockwell) use smoke bombs to alter the visibility of security guards in the lair they attempt to escape. 


The music works in tandem with every scene, whether it’s the score or the soundtrack layered behind critical plot points. Kingsman has a powerful score behind most of its scenes but also plays “Free Bird” during a scene where agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) fights to escape a church. Argylle uses the Beatles’ “Now and Then” to further represent Elly and Aiden’s developing relationship. 


The connections between the two become even more minute. The significance of retina scans and poison-filled syringes, the secret spy lairs written by endless hallways that extend forever, the airplane interiors and stocked weapon rooms… It all repeated itself. 


There are even multiple occasions of the transfer of important information through a loading screen that pauses and plays while Samuel L. Jackson’s character anxiously waits in anticipation! 


It’s like the line from Phineas and Ferb: “If I had a nickel for every time I was doomed by a puppet, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.” 


Overall, these similarities made Argylle a better movie in my eyes, but it still isn’t a bad, one-and-a-half star film. Something that makes both movies so unique is this exaggerated approach to action, and Vaughn brought back the best parts of Kingsman when making Argylle. I highly recommend both films if you haven’t seen them, or have only seen one. 


Take the reviews with a grain of salt - don’t let them sway your perception of what a “good movie” is.



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