Netflix’s original film The Old Guard is ripe with potential, but the film opts to go down a route we have seen time and time again.
Based off graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, The Old Guard tells the story of a band of immortal world traveling mercenaries who have often been catalysts in some of the world’s most key events. Led by the millennia old Andy (Charlize Theron) the group is able to heal from any wound and connect to other recently awakened immortals through dreams – though this occurrence is a rarity. Eventually, they can die, but when and how remains a mystery.
The Best of The Old Guard
This movie does a great job at laying out the world the Guard inhabit and all the characters are fully realized and well acted. Andy is world weary and seen so much in her unnaturally long lifespan. Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), a French veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, has seen all of his children pass and delivers the best moment in the film as he talks about the pain he felt as a father being able to do nothing and provide no explanation to his children regarding his immortality. Thematically, the idea of immortality being both a blessing and a curse is focused on heavily.
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Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and Joe (Marwan Kenzari) fought against each other in the Crusades and ultimately formed such a bond they have fallen in love – the human need to connect with someone, and in their case, spend eternity with them. At lastly Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne), who we watch seemingly die and discover her immortality, a revelation that alienates her from her fellow soldiers and family.
The Old Guard explores the idea of the loneliness of leading a never ending life and being seen as a force of good for some but a manifestation of evil for others.
The Worst of The Old Guard
Unfortunately, The Old Guard does little with its high concept premise. The action is minimal, and with Netflix releases such as Extraction coming out earlier this year, the complexity of its action sequences leave much to be desired. For characters with such elaborate backstories with endless of possibilities to pursue, the story itself seems rather contained and as a result the movie feels small.
The film continually teased the long coming death for Theron’s Andy, but it never came. Instead they opted to set up for future stories. Andy dying would have given more meaning to her and her mentee Nile’s relationship. By that point, Nile would have been ready to assume a leadership position within the group, fully understanding the responsibility that comes with being an immortal member of The Old Guard. In my opinion, it would have been a stronger end for both their arcs.
The music also was very distracting. A lot of scenes contained lyrical pop music that was unsettling, or if taking place during action scenes, too silly. The Old Guard is a great concept that comes from a strong source material. Perhaps as a Netflix original, with a fraction of a studio release budget, it was impossible to reach its peak potential.
The Old Guard is out on Netflix July 10, 2020.