There is no mistaking The Old Guard‘s comic book origins, with its eclectic characters, meticulous world-building, and a strong lean towards an underlying mythology.
For newcomers unaware of the premise, the biggest spoiler comes with actually knowing the very concept of this Netflix film. If you have not seen the trailer (or the poster’s tagline for that matter), then a turn of events within the first 10 minutes will catch you off guard and have you anticipating the unexpected at every turn. Not knowing a thing would give the film maximum impact. That being said, reading ahead will not reveal any key spoilers for The Old Guard‘s unfolding narrative, and so if you don’t mind being one of those who already knows the general premise, read on.
Charlize Theron plays Andromache of Scythia (aka Andy), a millenniums-old leader of a group of immortal warriors who use their powers for good in the world. When a new immortal (KiKi Layne) is discovered – the first in 200 years – they take her under their wing while evading a ruthless pharmaceutical company who wants to harvest these characters for an endless supply of research, gain and demand. It is a generic proposition, to be sure, and one straight out of Comic Book Land, however the film rejects the stylings of Marvel and DC and takes a much different course.
If you can imagine Zero Dark Thirty spliced with Kingsman then you will start to comprehend the quality of film that director Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees) has conjured. And when you consider the gritty stylings of a political thriller like Body of Lies and mix it with a drop of Highlander, as well as themes from Interview With the Vampire, the appeal intensifies.
Theron leads the film with brazen tenacity and maintains her qualification as one of her generation’s greatest action stars. In The Old Guard she offers a tough and energetic performance, which is mostly impassive, and in the few moments that her vulnerability shows she hits the mark with a bullseye. She gives a brilliant performance and is well supported by an ensemble of reliable players.
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow) is particularly good as Theron’s right-hand man, and his ability to switch between action and drama is impressive. His is an understated performance, which informs the direction of where the film is headed. KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) is sensational as the rookie immortal struggling to comprehend her new circumstances. Not only does she kick serious ass, but she also taps into much of the film’s moral quandaries.
Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli and Chiwetel Ejiofor all lend strong support, and Harry Melling (the Harry Potter series) brings a slightly comical tone to the story as the maniacal corporate chemist hellbent on fame and glory. His character does blunt some of the film’s edge, which is a crux in the writing and direction more so than his actual performance.
At 125 minutes, The Old Guard is slightly too long for its own good, however it does maintain stamina throughout the entire run time. It also builds a solid foundation for an inevitable franchise, and as a Netflix film it couldn’t be more easily accessible. Plus, as this particular writer can attest, The Old Guard also proves to be a highly enjoyable comic book movie for those who usually don’t like comic book movies.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★★✩
‘The Old Guard’ can be streamed on Netflix right HERE.