The first half of the movie plays out exactly as you’d expect, with Bryce Dallas Howard flying by the seat of her pants in pure panic and fear as people keep trying to kill her, while Aidan fights to protect her and bring her up to speed with what’s been happening in the underground spy world. However, there’s a surprising and somewhat perplexing visual juxtaposition of Sam Rockwell as Aidan and Henry Cavill as Argylle, as Elly continually sees Argylle in the place of Aidan, with footage of the two spies spliced together seamlessly as they each fight their way through the same bad guys in front of her very eyes. There’s some slick editing used to piece Rockwell and Cavill’s action into one sequence, and seeing the fictional character and real word spy alternating as one person makes Elly think she’s going a little mad.
These finely choreographed sequences involve all the usual punching, kicking, stabbing, gunfire, and even a grenade, and Vaughn struts his usual “Kingsman” kind of stuff as funky pop soundtrack cues create infectiously rhythmic fights. Speckled throughout the action and intrigue are also solid moments of comedy, thanks to both the inconvenient presence of Elly’s cat Alfie (though, on several occasions, Alfie is unjustly mistreated by several characters, and he sometimes ends up being more of a distraction than a feature), and Sam Rockwell’s standout performance as Aidan.
While the imaginary Argylle is an impeccably dressed, suave, debonair spy like James Bond, Aidan is more of an everyman who first appears in disguise with a big floppy hat, long hair, and scruffy beard. Even after he’s shed that disguise, Aidan has a vibe that’s more about blending in as a regular dude than being a cool spy, feeling a bit like “Magnum P.I.,” and Rockwell executes his role magnificently. At the same time, Howard does a fantastic job of providing a grounded, even emotional performance in the midst of totally implausible things happening around her. Together, Rockwell and Howard make for a delightful, unlikely duo, each with their own surprises in store as the movie’s twisty story unfolds.