Starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Most of you have probably seen The Old Guard by now, as Netflix wasted no time boasting about how it became one of their most watched original films of all time. Which is why we’re pleased to say that we found it to be so much more than a corporate cash grab, with director Gina Prince-Bythewood instead having created something which will truly stand the test of time.
Charlize Theron stars as Andromeda of Scythia (otherwise known as Andy), who leads a team of immortal warriors with Wolverine-style healing powers. Andy rarely smiles, and while it’s clear she seems cold and detached, we learn she loves her team more than anything. She would even be willing to die for them, which she demonstrates time and again, although her immortality prevents each death from being permanent. Theron was perfectly cast as Andy, bringing both a tough exterior and a sense of sadness to the role of a woman who has lived for centuries and witnessed both the best and the worst humanity has to offer. Andy also serves as a kind of mentor to Nile (KiKi Layne), a newly discovered immortal who initially views her powers as a curse rather than a gift, with the character’s internal struggle being perfectly captured by Layne.
We also learn that one of the other immortal warriors was entrapped in a holed iron coffin which was then thrown into the depths of the sea, where she would spend century after century drowning over and over again. Even for hardcore horror fans like us, just the thought of that gives us chills. Anyone who dreams of immortality will probably have second thoughts after watching this.
Because it was never intended to receive a theatrical release, The Old Guard did not have to worry about securing a lower age rating, and as a result, the action sequences are satisfyingly visceral and unhinged. We have to applaud Netflix for not holding back on the bloodshed in such a mainstream and commercial film, and with any luck, the inevitable sequel will end up being just as violent.
In recent years, Hollywood studios have congratulated themselves for representing LGBTQ characters, although this usually amounts to nothing more than a wink and a nod. Which is why we were so relieved that not only did The Old Guard feature two explicitly gay characters in the forms of Joe and Nicky (who were beautifully played by Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli), but even featured an extended sequence where Joe delivers a speech about how much he loves Nicky. This is the kind of representation of LGBTQ persons which Hollywood should embrace, and we have nothing but praise for The Old Guard in this area.
On the other hand, the question of whether the immortals have a moral responsibility to share their genetic code with the world in the hopes that it could be used for healthcare purposes is certainly a valid topic of discussion, but sadly the film falls here by depicting the healthcare CEO (played by Harry Melling) as a greedy, sadistic, and cowardly weasel who only cares about the bottom line. This undoubtably diluted the serious moral dilemma the film briefly seemed to want to raise, with the villain being presented as such a conventional Hollywood bad guy that any semblance of serious debate was sadly thrown out the window.
If anything, however, The Old Guard was an incredibly quotable movie. “That woman has forgotten more ways to kill than entire armies will ever learn” is bound to be repeated for years to come, while “Nothing that lives, lives forever” also being a line which most viewers will remember. Greg Rucka, who authored the comic on which the film is based, also wrote the screenplay, and he clearly has a knack for hard-hitting and thoughtful dialogue.
While there’s probably not much else we can say about The Old Guard which has not already been said, we found it to be a hugely satisfying action blockbuster which puts its humanity front and centre. And we certainly appreciate an extra dose of humanity in our action movies, so The Old Guard could easily be one of the best comic book adaptations of 2020. On the other hand, Theron’s performance in itself also makes this a film which demands your immediate attention, which is not something we would say lightly. If humans really did live forever, we expect people would still be talking about The Old Guard at the turn of the next century.
While it functioned perfectly well as a visceral action blockbuster with great central performances, The Old Guard also reminded us of what it means to be human in the first place, making it one of the best comic book adaptations of the year.