Argylle parents guide

Argylle Parent Guide

This supposedly lighthearted film glorifies and celebrates violence to a degree that feels sociopathic.

Overall D

Theaters: Introverted spy novelist Elly is drawn into real life espionage when the plot of her newest book comes a little too close to reality.

Release date February 2, 2024

Violence D
Sexual Content B
Profanity C-
Substance Use C-

Why is Argylle rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Argylle PG-13 for strong violence and action and some strong language.

Run Time: 135 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Super-spy Argylle (played by Henry Cavill with an unflattering brush cut) is on the case, tracking down a glamorous double agent in Greece. She’s wily and seductive; luckily, Argylle is daring, resourceful, and recklessly brave.

He’s also a fictional character.

Mild-mannered Elly Conway (Bruce Dallas Howard) is an unlikely spinner of espionage tales. Quiet and reclusive, she lives with her cat in a mountain retreat where she has written four blockbuster novels about Argylle. Painstaking research ensures that her novels are accurate – so accurate, in fact, that her latest novel is running parallel to a real-world intelligence operation. When a secret agent (Sam Rockwell) bursts into her humdrum life, and dozens more try to kill her, Elly is going to have to save herself, find herself, and save the world.

There’s the seed of a good movie here – one that could have been tongue-in-cheek, witty, and lighthearted. That potential is sadly unrealized: Argylle is a jumbled, bloated mess, overwhelmed with its multiple failures.

Problem number one is the plot. Anytime screenwriters use amnesia in a story, that’s a sign that they have run out of ideas and are desperately trying to find a plot twist. And when they add brainwashing/hypnosis to the mix, they are demonstrating a total failure of imagination. The kinks and whorls of this tale come ever faster, and weirder, turning the whole thing into a ridiculous, indigestible mess. This movie doesn’t just require a “suspension of disbelief”; it requires a complete cessation of thought.

Problem number two comes with the film’s unforgivably bad digital effects. In our era of sophisticated computer technology, there is no excuse for CGI that looks as bad as it does here, particularly when it comes to the cat. Heaven only knows why director Matthew Vaughn decided to use a digitally created cat instead of a real, breathing feline, but the results are terrible. There’s an uncanny valley problem where the cat looks almost real, but not quite. The eyes are a bit too big; the movements a bit too unnatural. It’s unnerving and distracting at the same time.

Technical problems aside, the third, and biggest issue with this movie is its glorification of violence. I’m not surprised when an action movie has frequent fight scenes, but this flick celebrates lethal combat to a degree that feels sociopathic. Along with the usual scenes of hand-to-hand combat and gunfights, the screenplay features elaborate set pieces that revel in carnage. In one killing spree, an agent figure skates across an oil slick, pirouetting gracefully while slaughtering numerous extras. Another scene sees two agents doing a deadly dance – literally waltzing together through multi-colored clouds of toxic gases as they shoot everyone in sight. I think these scenes are supposed to be funny, but I can’t laugh at mass death.

At one point in the tortured plot, after a failed assassination attempt, the archvillain says, “Regret for time wasted is wasting more time.” That’s the perfect epitaph for this film. It’s already stolen enough of my life and my brain cells, and I’m going to try to forget it as quickly as possible. Take a tip from me: this glossy mediocrity isn’t worth any of your time either.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell. Running time: 135 minutes. Theatrical release February 2, 2024. Updated

Watch the trailer for Argylle

Rating & Content Info

Why is Argylle rated PG-13? Argylle is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong violence and action and some strong language.

Violence: Throughout the film, violence is glorified and sometimes treated as comic material. There are non-stop scenes of hand-to-hand combat, featuring punching, kicking, throwing, and stomping on people. There is an extended discussion of crushing people’s skulls by stomping on their heads – an agent describes it as a “fun new experience”. A man stomps a man’s head: his foot is below the frame but a crushing noise is heard. A man is beaten during an interrogation sequence. There are frequent scenes of weapons violence featuring firearms and bladed weapons. People are frequently shot at close range, sometimes in cold blood. People die on screen, but bloody injuries are few and heavily sanitized. A dead man is seen with a gun embedded in his chest. A person commits suicide with poison; another person tries to poison someone else. A man is thrown out of a moving train. People are gassed in a few scenes. There are scenes of reckless driving. There are frequent explosions: in one scene an oil tanker is blown up, with the certainty of significant fatalities (not to mention environmental contamination).
Sexual Content: Men and women kiss. Women wear very low cut dresses in a few scenes, with extensive cleavage. There are brief scenes of suggestive dancing.
Profanity: The script contains one sexual expletive, a smattering of crude anatomical words, and a dozen each of scatological curses, terms of deity, and minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   Adults drink alcohol in social situations. A character urges a main character to drink alcohol as a way of coping with stress and trauma. An adult mentions misusing a prescription stimulant drug (Adderall) in order to stay awake all night.

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Argylle Parents' Guide

What does Elly learn about herself over the course of the film? Do you agree with the choices she makes?  What do you think you would do in her situation? What values guide her decisions? What values are most important to you?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Reclusive authors find themselves involved in perilous adventures in The Lost City and Romancing the Stone. Murder mystery writer Agatha Christie turns up in the madcap whodunnit See How They Run.

For a much better espionage story of amnesia and psychological conditioning, mature viewers can watch The Bourne Identity.