In the ‘before-times’ The Old Guard would have made for a good in-person movie experience: lots of action, cool premise, great characters and an interesting story. As it stands, Netflix will do and so anyone who has an account can watch it at their leisure.
The film follows a group of rag-tag heroes who all share one common trait: they are immortal. The titular group is led by Andy (Charlize Theron), with Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) making up the rest of the crew. When a new immortal warrior, Nile (Kiki Layne), joins them, she sparks a reckoning with the Guard’s ideals.
It’s important to note that this is a comic book movie but not of the DC or Marvel variety. These are regular people (all military) who happen to be immortal and who have the knowledge and skills that come with having lived for hundreds of years. The film pays a lot of attention to the quiet moments and this sets it apart from its peers. There are numerous scenes where people just talk to each other and each time we come away feeling as if we know these people. So when the action scenes kicks in, there is genuine concern for our heroes. These quiet scenes force us to reckon with our own mistakes and regrets as well as dwell on the larger existential question of what its like to live forever and to be persecuted.
And yet, at the same time the action sequences are very good! And they’re not only in the third act, the actions scenes are placed throughout the movie. The fights themselves are done in a way that you can see what everyone is doing, even in the group scenes. In this way you see every minute detail and it makes watching them more immersive. And they are as violent as you would expect and then some.
Charlize Theron shines in the role of Andy as the stoic, battle tested leader. I’ve lately enjoyed Theron’s roles from Mad Max, Atomic Blonde, Fast and Furious as she has proven herself a worthy action star. Here, not only do we get some great fight scenes with her but also some of that high level acting chops we’ve seen in her other work. As well, Kiki Layne holds her own and is unrecognizable from her last big role in If Beale Street Could Talk.
The film is also very inclusive featuring a diverse cast from various backgrounds and sexual orientations. One scene plays out like its going to be homophobic but gets flipped by a short but poetic eulogy on love that steals the scene.
The fidelity to the source material was also spot on. This is no surprise since Greg Rucka who wrote the screenplay also wrote the source comic. Some scenes are pulled almost right of the page and Rucka does a good job to retain the tone. The comic does go into more detail about each of the character’s backstory and in the movie you only get small pieces, just enough to know what’s going on but leaving much to be desired. Speaking of which (and in true comic fashion) we get a post credit scene that is genuinely surprising and sets up a potential sequel. If you haven’t read the comic then I would suggest watching the movie first and then going back to read the source for the wider context it provides.
So have you seen The Old Guard? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.