TL;DR – A solid action flick, with an interesting premise, that lands from start to finish.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Nominated: Fascinating Worldbuilding.
Review – I think it is no surprise that I like a good action film. Add an exciting premise, and compelling characters and I am there for the ride. Well, I have not seen a compelling action film since I went into lockdown, but I am glad to say this all changes today.
So to set the scene, we open in on Marrakesh, Morocco where a lady called Andy (Charlize Theron) walks through the market, stalked by someone on a motorcycle. Thankfully, it is was an old friend Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is here with the rest of the team with a proposition. A former CIA contact Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) needs some help, a group of school girls have were kidnapped in Juba, South Sudan and no one else can help but her and her team. In a surgical strike, they take out the camp where the girls are kept only to find it was all a setup. Gunned down in a hail of bullets, this should be the end, but moments later they wake up and catch the would-be murders in a storm of their own. At the same moment in Afghanistan, a marine Nile (KiKi Layne) is leading a search for a bomb maker when she is stabbed only to wake up without a scratch.
One of the things I liked about this film is how they always had time to respect the little details. We see it at the start when Andy, how she quietly deletes a photo of herself while being incredibly friendly and helpful. We also see it with Nile and her team as they surgically clear a room. You learn so much about who she is and how she operates in those moments, and I like that they took the time to get those moments right. All of these moments help support the narrative and give weight to when people work as one unit because you have already laid the groundwork.
At the core of this film is that occasionally, a mere handful of times in all of history, someone is born with the ability to escape death’s grasp. Then they get shot, stabbed, blown up with a grenade, they come back together. The one catch is that one day seemingly at random you just stop healing. It is this catch that helps a film where people can’t die have some stakes. It also helps that they take that time to make you care for most of the characters before it all starts falling apart. The whole supporting cast is strong, and that adds to every moment of the film because you want to see where it goes.
To add to this, the main villain in this film Merrick (Harry Melling) has a plan that makes sense in a sadistic way. There is a lot of science happening to try and stopping chromosomal decline, so it makes sense if you had access to someone like Andy, Booker, Joe (Marwan Kenzari) or Nicky (Luca Marinelli) you would want it. The broader motivations of the other players like Copley and [SPOILER] also fit within the framework of the film. One of the main themes of the film is the intersection of morality and ethics, and how that works in this world. Indeed, the film keeps hinting of the trolley problem even if it does not commit to it. I also liked the undercurrent of women supporting women that come back to throughout the film.
While I did like the film, it was not without its issues that can’t help pop up throughout the film. While the action generally flows well, taking a more clinical headshot fisticuffs style of action then focusing on gruesome crunch (well mostly). However, most of the damage effects felt like they were added after the fact, and the compositors just did not have enough time to incorporate them properly. To add to this, it felt like at times that some of the conversations didn’t quite land, and it needed some refinement in the edit, or they didn’t quite get it on the day. All of this means that The Old Guard does reveal its hand a bit earlier than I think the filmmakers intended. Also, the ending might have promised a more interesting future than what we got at times in the film.
In the end, do we recommend The Old Guard? Yes, yes we do. It is not the strongest action film I have seen, but it is a solid one. There are interesting characters, the setting is engaging, and it made me want more, and that is always a good sign. If you liked The Old Guard, I would also recommend Atomic Blonde to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Old Guard
Directed by – Gina Prince-Bythewood
Screenplay by – Greg Rucka
Based on – The Old Guard by Greg Rucka & Leandro Fernández
Music by – Volker Bertelmann & Dustin O’Halloran
Cinematography by – Tami Reiker & Barry Ackroyd
Edited by – Terilyn A. Shropshire
Production/Distribution Companies – Skydance Media, Denver and Delilah Productions & Netflix
Starring – Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Anamaria Marinca, Natacha Karam, Mette Towley & Joey Ansah
Rating – Australia: MA15+;