Written by: Greg Rucka
Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling
As much as people would like to live forever because no one wants to face death, the idea of never leaving this world while others do certainly has its drawbacks. One of them being the fact you will have to watch everyone you love eventually die and then you remain continuing to walk the Earth. While exploring the horrors of immortality along with some tremendous action sequences, The Old Guard creates an entertaining and engaging story and yet another action vehicle for Charlize Theron.
Having been around for centuries, a group of immortal beings is led by Andy (Charlize Theron) where they try to go where needed to make the world a better place when they cannot die. After they get tricked into a scenario where their abilities get exposed, they must get away from a money-hungry pharmaceutical executive who wants to use them as lab rats for his next big pay day as a new immortal enters the fray.
With no definitive date explaining when she started, Andy has seen it all and has been involved in so many of history’s most pivotal moments. This includes several wars and dynasties ranging from the early Americas to possibly ancient China. Safe to say, she has lived plenty of life, but the film opens with Andy and her crew trying to do yet another good deed that does not go well for them and her exhaustion feels palpable. Right away it’s made clear she has been through so much and has seen some horrors. With all of the work Andy and her group have done to make the world a better place, she just continues to see atrocities happen again and again as history has shown. A genuine conundrum for her and one the film explains beautifully when it gets towards the end to show the impact we have in life. The results may not be immediate but the ripple effect exists, which may take generations to come to fruition but Andy gets the opportunity to see it firsthand.
This theme highlights what makes The Old Guard so much more rich than most action films, as it contains many worthy and emotional moments running directly parallel with the adrenaline-pumping sequences. These characters do not get much time to establish themselves in the beginning but they quickly prove why the audience should care for them and how this immortality serves as both a blessing and a curse. It says so much about the strength of Greg Rucka’s screenplay and how the actors ingratiate themselves within the role. Sure, plenty of lore needs to get established to catch the audience up on characters who have been doing this for centuries but it all comes together enough express needs to be known.
The action sequences in this film look top-notch, which sets up a different type of movie for director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Gaining acclaim for her romance drama Love & Basketball, seeing her take on an action film came as a surprise and a pleasant one at that. She shoots the gruesome action incredibly well to establish the pain these immortals feel even if they cannot die. A particular fight sequence between Andy and another character demonstrates the level of pain these individuals can endure. Very clear and still creates tension even with the knowledge these individuals cannot die because of the stakes involved with them potentially being captured. Certainly a different type of movie for Prince-Bythewood but I look forward to seeing her potentially do a sequel for this film or another genre in order for her to display her strong directing prowess.
Charlize Theron certainly stands out in this lead role by continuing her impressive run of action films but a wonderful bright spot came in the appearance of Kiki Layne. Grabbing all of our hearts with her loving and touching performance in If Beale Street Could Talk, she steps into this action role and matches right up with Theron. Her character just discovered her immortality after suffering from a fatal wound while serving as a marine. She has the most emotional work to do as getting adjusted to this lifestyle and coming to the realization of what it means to live forever becomes a lot to process and all of the other immortals needed to reckon with when their journey first began. Layne brings the necessary physicality to the role while also displaying her special talent as an actor to carry those quieter and more vulnerable moments.
Even with its ridiculously over the top villain and smaller shortcomings, The Old Guard proves to be an incredibly worthy action film with some very transcendent thematic elements to tackle. It effectively evokes the dowerness of living forever and the impact it can have on the psyche of the individuals forced to forever live while others die. Ruthlessly entertaining and thoroughly exciting in how it executes all of its points to create a worthwhile movie.