In the latest instance of false marketing at the movies, Matthew Vaugh’s Argylle isn’t steered by Henry Cavill. It isn’t a send-up of the James Bonds and Mission Impossibles (although it does draw from another franchise of this type that shall remain unnamed). The Scottish Fold cat featured in the trailer is as ornamental to the plot as coherence.

The feline, named Alfie, is the beloved pet of Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), the best-selling creator of the super-spy Argylle. In her novels, Elly imagines Argylle to resemble Henry Cavill (who wouldn’t?). But then she meets a real-life version of the agent.

Aidan (Sam Rockwell) tells Elly that the fiction she has been churning out has been predicting actual events. A shadowy organisation called Division, and led by Ritter (Bryan Cranston), wants to use Elly to find information that is harmful to Division. Might Elly use her plotting skills to lead Ritter towards the light, and might Aidan help Elly (and Alfie) stay alive in the bargain?

It’s hard to care. A sequence revolving around skating on an oil-slicked surface sums up the movie’s unwieldly balance between action and comedy.

Jason Fuchs’s script is studded with aargh-worthy lines and a host of improbables. Aaron and Adam Nee’s The Lost City (2022) handled the slippage between reality and fiction far better. Argylle has greater ambitions than The Lost City – the 138-minute movie links up to Vaughn’s Kingsman franchise – but there’s a shortage of clever gags, scenes that pop or action set-pieces that stand out.

A host of big-name actors – Samuel L Jackson, Catherine O’Hara, John Cena , Sofia Butella, Ariana DeBose, Dua Lipa – breeze through increasingly clunky moments. Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell make the oddest pair in the annals of espionage movies, but their finely honed skill at comedy sees them through.

Henry Cavill, despite a Dolph Lundgren haircut from Rocky IV, cuts a dash in his Nehru jackets. The movie does neither Cavill nor Rockwell justice by suggesting that a fantasy spy resembles Cavill but actually looks like Rockwell, but they are too professional to ruin the picture.

Argylle (2024).

Also read:

The back story of Argylle, the spy played by Henry Cavill