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THE OLD GUARD gets 8/10 Ignites a dying genre


Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood

Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Network: Netflix

8/10

This 2020 American superhero film is based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood. Four mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret and must fight to protect their freedom – all whilst questioning and teaching an emerging immortal. The film combines military, espionage and action in a melting pot of emotion and mystery – The Old Guard truly pumps new blood into an otherwise weary genre.

Andromache, a.k.a. Andy (Charlize Theron) is the axe-wielding fury warrior from Scythia, who leads Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), who fought and found love during the Crusades, and Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), the youngest to join after the Napoleonic Wars. After a sudden demise of US Marine, Nile (KiKi Layne), the team must explain a millennium of purpose to the new recruit, whilst they learn that with power comes vulnerability, as Merrick (Harry Melling) hunts them down.

Due to the graphic nature of the wounds sustained by the immortal group, the feature’s original rating is R, with one particular scene causing even myself to flinch (even Deadpool didn’t do that). The storyline sweeps between scenic locations across Africa, Southern Asia, rural France, and London – a nod to Director Gina Prince-Blythewood’s early experience with Cloak & Dagger, and Shots Fired, as she heralds this action-driven feature. Dynamic camerawork and punchy cutting techniques create a dexterity with the high-tension visuals and anxious soundtrack; incorporating techno, percussion elements, rap, and ambience in ways that tend to depend on the psychological toll their life of violence incurs.

Theron, who has amassed many action-packed roles with Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road and Aeon Flux, brings the same swagger, brute force, and melancholic intensity to the role of Andy – weighed by centuries of “fighting the good fight”, the loss of friends and loved ones, and countless tragedies. Her performance is complimented in the warmth of Layne’s character, who breaks down her mentor’s jaded disgust for humanity’s many failings and ignites the fire she once had.

The Old Guard is a refreshing and grounded superhero film, and a slight departure from the usual features adapted in Hollywood. It has character, heart, and action, with strongly built characters and concepts that keep the story thrilling from beginning to end. The movie poses many philosophical and psychological themes, relating to death, legacy, and humanity – alongside corporate greed, and the ultimate decisions of the greater good. With a twist at the end, there are hints for a sequel.

This feature provides another persuasive argument for why handing female directors the reins more often invigorates a genre, and how engaging a queer-positive representation of gay characters who stir defiance in the face of machismo society can work for a franchise, rather than simply “tick a diversity box”.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

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