I randomly stumbled upon this movie. I mean I was looking another film of Charlize Theron‘s (Atomic Blonde) when The Old Guard came on my radar. It’s not an intellectual property that I’m familiar with but the cast and the premise was enough to put in my “to watch list.”
The movie is based on the comic books “The Old Guard: Force Multiplied” by artist Leandro Fernandez and writer Greg Rucka – who’s also the screenwriter here. Helmed by writer director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Cloak & Dagger, Love & Basketball) the movies also stars KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), one of my favorite actors Matthias Schoenaerts (Suite Française), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin), Harry Melling (Harry Potter), Luca Marinelli (Trust), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange, 12 Years a Slave).
Premise: A quartet of mercenaries, who are all centuries-old immortals able to heal from any wound, must fight to keep their freedom and identity a secret just as they find another immortal has “awakened.”
Review: The opening scene of The Old Guard gives you a false sense of dread. The titular characters lay dead, and immediately I thought is the end at the beginning? with an eye-roll but it’s not. In fact the first 15 minutes sets up The Old Guard nicely, the next 10 the new one.
It’s obvious that with long lived characters you could explore the emotional turmoil of seeing your loved ones age and die, the wars, the rise and fall of civilizations, the burden of always having to keep that secret from anyone you come across; and all that philosophical aspect of immortality but it’s an action fantasy movie. Not a TED talk on the trials and tribulations of centuries and millennia of existence. I’m not saying that the movie doesn’t touch on these subjects, it does, in flashbacks and exposition dialogues. Meaning it’s not the main focus but there is enough to allow the viewer to ponder those fascinating questions if they want to. Besides one need only to look at the behavior of our quartet to have an inkling of the burden they carry.
The story has shades of greatness but it’s a little predictable. There are not so subtle clues that will help you figure out how The Old Guard came to fighting to keep their freedom and identity a secret. I very much appreciated that they took the time to show us that the new “awakened” immortal was army combatant, that she had skills. She didn’t look out of place of the fight scenes. Speaking of which, the action scenes are good and efficiently paired with the visual effects. It was also refreshing to see a queer couple represented – They didn’t make it a big deal so I’m not going.
The cast does elevates the material, they make the genre tropes work. Theron is such a great actress that she manages to tell so much about Andy when staring at bandages. Melling represented the greed of big pharma well. Schoenaerts, like Kenzari and Marinelli, tells you as much about their characters with or without words. Kiki Layne held her own physically and acting wise, and Ejiorfor was nicely nuanced.
The Old Guard is a good movie that also would have been awesome – if not better – as a four to six part mini-series. It very much feels like a set up, an intro to a saga but all th at said I wasn’t half way through that I already wanted a sequel.
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