REVIEW – The Old Guard (2020)

Being immortal means that you live forever.  At least, that's what most people would say.  You could make the argument that art can live forever, to a certain extent.  Think about something that you watched or read that you know you'll always remember.  Isn't that a kind of immortality?  For fans of The Old Guard, you have twice the chance.  The popular graphic novel from writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez will finally come to life on Netflix on July 10th.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here is the official synopsis from Netflix: "Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (KiKi Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (LOVE & BASKETBALL, BEYOND THE LIGHTS), THE OLD GUARD is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks."

Based on the concept alone, I had high hopes for this movie.  I figured that Charlize Theron would make this worth watching alone.  Be prepared to be capitvated by many other member of the cast, as well.  The chemisty of this crew is off the charts, and that really helps you get invested in what happens to them right away.  One of the reasons for that is, we're meeting this group after they have already been together for a while.  This movie doesn't get drawn out by long origin stories and struggling group dynamics.  Sure, we get backstory, but what we're also getting is a group that you can tell really cares about one another.  It makes you want to root for them.  It also helps give you that impact when that dynamic changes by a factor of one.

When you meet Nile for the first time, she will leave a big impression on you right away.  The way that she carries herself, the way she treats others, I was with her from the start.  When she realizes what is happening to her, I couldn't help but wonder how I would react if the same were to happen to me.  Conveying those raw emotions, with everything happening so rapidly in the moment, isn't easy.  KiKi Layne does a fantastic job at making it all feel real and authentic.  It also helps that she can throw down with the best of them.

The action scenes in this movie really are top notch.  Speaking of Nile and Andy, here's a quick look at what I'm talking about:

That confident, almost cocky look in Andy's eyes opposite that determination and rage from Nile is just pure magic to me.  There are plenty of jaw dropping moments involving the two of them, but don't forget we have three other member of the group that can throw down as well.  Joe and Nicky might be the charm of the group, but they also know how to get their hands dirty.  Booker might seem rough on the outside, but the more you learn about him, the more deep his character gets.  Even without true origin stories, each character gets their chance to matter in their own space, which leads to plenty of big payoffs as the movie goes on.

Another character that really stood out to me was Copley, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He's a former CIA agent, and a real catalyst to the story in the early going. I think this is one of those characters that will give people several different reactions. There's going to be some anger there, probably some understanding and maybe even a little bit of frustration. Given that range of emotions, you need someone with the skill of Ejiofor to do this character justice.

I don't want to get into the "big bad" too much, because I feel like that leads into a bit of spoiler territory.  What I can tell you is that it will make perfect sense, given the unique abilities of the team.  It's also a different angle that is taken, given what we usually get for big bads in action movies these days.  While I would say there is a "big bad", there are also more layers to it.  So it's not just as simple as a singular threat and it makes things far more interesting.

Overall, The Old Guard was a movie that makes you want to pay attention.  This isn't one of those movies that will have you scrolling through your phone throughout.  You'll want to be glued to the screen for the action and the incredible depth of these characters.  Plus, again I won't spoil anything, but there is a nice twist at the end that you'll really appreciate if you pay close attention to the details.  This movie will make you question the nature of immortality and also make you think about morality a time or two along the way.  It really helped that the originial writer of the graphic novel, Greg Rucka, was also involved in writing the screenplay.  That helped turn this ordinary action movie into a character driven story about doing what you think is right.  Don't just add this to your list, watch it the first chance you get.  This movie is going to get a lot of chatter on social media, so don't be the one that gets it spoiled for you by a tweet.  For me, this is one I will be watching several more times for years to come.

Photo Credit: Aimee Spinks/Netflix