Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Adaptation of Greg Rucka’s Epic Comic ‘The Old Guard’ Is An Awesome Time – Review
The Old Guard follows the lives of a group of immortals who fight for what they believe is right. The mercenaries–who are centuries of years old–have their secret discovered while on a new mission. On the run from those who wish to exploit their secret for monetary gain, the quartet feels the “awakening” of another immortal. They have to find her quickly before the people who are after them become privy to the information that another immortal exists.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard is based on the Image Comics series of the same name by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. While The Old Guard may not be the first (or last) comic book to receive the live-action treatment, for me, it was certainly one of the best. I believe The Old Guard certainly benefitted from having Rucka himself pen the screenplay for the film. Who better than the writer himself to know the source material? While there were some minor differentiations from the book, the story within the movie largely stuck to the plot found within the pages of the comics.
Charlize Theron as Andromache of Scythia (a.k.a. Andy) has lived a very long and brutal life. She’s lost loved ones, she’s been killed more times than she can count, and yet, still fights for a world that she knows would want to keep her in a cage, experiment upon or worse–she knows this because she’s seen it happen before.
The scenes between Andy and Veronica Ngo’s Quynh, are some of the most devastating to watch. The pair of warriors are eventually viewed as witches, and we all know what happens to women accused of witchcraft. The duo are heartbreakingly separated and what happens to Quynh is beyond disturbing–a literal nightmare come to life. It’s truly no wonder why Andy swings an axe to kill the way she does.
Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Marwan Kenzari as Joe and Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker make for a dream team alongside Theron’s Andy. Able to match her badassery with ease, the trio are a great foil to her character. They are not as grumpy as Andy, and the three of them do their best to fill in their new recruit, Nile (KiKi Layne) about Andy’s backstory and just how they all came to meet one another.
Layne shines as Nile, a Marine who does not die after a deadly encounter while in action. As Andy is the first to find Nile, seeing the interaction between the pair is great. On one side of the coin, you have the oldest immortal amongst them and on the other side, you have the world’s newest. Their dichotomy highlights Andy’s growing pessimism compared to Nile’s youthful idealism, while the rest fall somewhere in between. Theron, Layne, Schoenaerts, Kenzari and Marinelli have great chemistry with one another and I truly believe that they really got the essence of the characters, bringing them perfectly to life for the screen.
Of course, we cannot talk about the movie without talking about the antagonists, Copley and Merrick, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Harry Melling respectively. While Copley is the lesser villain in the story, he still aides Merrick in his quest to hunt down the immortals. Merrick is the CEO of a huge pharmaceutical company and he wants all of the profits that could be gained from such a discovery. Melling is pitch-perfect as the power-hungry and maniacal Merrick. While Ejiofor doesn’t have as much screentime as his acting counterparts, as always, he is believable in his role as Copley. While Merrick is quite irredeemable (rightfully so), the same cannot be said for Copley. Though you may disagree with Copley’s method in trying to better the world by risking the exposure of the immortals, you do feel for him and can understand how (and why) he wanted to see if the immortals could help mankind.
The idea of living for centuries upon centuries while all of the people around you constantly die is something that is unimaginable. All of the actors in the film do an excellent job conveying the devastating nature of their “gift”. All of the characters are on their own journeys mentally which was interesting to watch. You have Andy, who is tired and seems like she is on the verge of giving all of this up, you have Booker who is trying to find a way to deal with the loved ones he’s lost, you have Nile who is in a state of denial, believing that none of this can be real and how she will be able to cope without her family. Lastly, you have Joe and Nicky who are the pair that are mostly happy because they found love with one another, and are living their immortal lives together.
Sometimes with films with an ensemble cast, the characterization of many can get lost in translation. However, this is something that thankfully never happens in The Old Guard. The story was well-paced and I enjoyed the history and mythology lessons that were learned along the way. The glimpses into the pasts of our immortals were some of the most compelling parts of the film and were perfectly pieced together with the amazing fight choreography. Yet again, 2020 has blessed us with another awesome comic book film directed by a woman.
Be sure to catch The Old Guard when it drops on Netflix on July 10.