The Old Guard (2020)
Updated: Jul 21
When I saw The Old Guard (2020) appear on Netflix and then I saw the words, "Action," "Fantasy," and "Superhero," accompanying it, I was all in. I shotgunned this review faster than you can touch your own nose. Then I pressed play and fear gripped at my insides. "Strong themes, strong violence, STRONG BLOOD AND GORE," Netflix warned. Blood and gore is not always my forte...in fact, it's Charnstar's. However, I'd already gone to the effort of shotgunning, so there was no conceivable way out. And thank goodness for that, because I really enjoyed this film.
The Old Guard (2020), is about a group of "immortals", who are fighting to do good in the world (and have been for many years...obviously). Andy (Charlize Theron), the eldest and therefore the leader of the team, is in the middle of an internal crisis. She's questioning whether their do-gooding is impactful enough to justify doing it at all. She's struggling. Which is unfortunate, because a select group of humans, including Dudley Dursley (Harry Melling), have caught on to the fact that these immortals exist. Now Dudley and his science pals are chasing after our immortal heroes, in the hopes of finally finding the secret to the perfect anti-aging cream...Okay, that part is a massive understatement, but I'm sure you can discern the kind of sciency secrets that these humans would like to uncover from our protagonists.
I was concerned at the start of this film. The fact that the main characters are immortal is revealed very early on in the piece. Pretty well right at the start (if you failed to read the Netflix description before pressing play). Once this information was out on the table, I became sceptical about how they were going to maintain tension throughout the film. Hot take: I don't like Superman (#sorrynotsorry). I mean, he's a great guy, but he's basically invincible, which makes him very predictable. I won't give away any spoilers here, but suffice it to say that tension is handled very well in this movie, and there was never a moment where I became bored with The Old Guard.
The fight scenes are very engaging. Obviously these characters have been around the block, in terms of combat. This makes for some really cool sword/gun dual-wielding moments. I will admit that I preferred the scenes where characters engaged in one-on-one fights. In some of the larger group fights, I didn't have the same level of love. It's certainly not a problem unique to The Old Guard, but there are some moments where it feels like baddies are politely waiting their turn. Look, this really isn't that much of an issue. The action sequences are very engaging and Andy's sword/gun combo is awesome, but I'd suggest not thinking too hard about why her many opponents never seem to fire their weapons whilst she's impaling someone else.
This movie doesn't shy away from giving the actors monologues. Quite a few of the immortals have a short monologue to deliver. This gives the cast individual opportunities to shine and allows the audience to gain connections with some of the characters who surround Andy (and gain contextual information). The film takes place over a short period of time, and we are travelling with characters who have been together for centuries, so contextual information is very important. The Old Guard finds the right balance between dialogue and action most of the time. As an audience member, I had a question at the forefront of my mind throughout the majority of the film. Many of the answers came, but they were earnt in pieces. I was very impressed by this, as the alternative might have been a massive amount of exposition at the start, which would have been incredibly annoying. In fact, an exposition dump at 00:01 probably would have changed the outcome of this entire review. The only place where I think more information was really needed, was when discussing immortal Booker's contribution to the operation. Booker is placed in charge of finding a guy. At random intervals throughout the movie, characters mention that Booker is finding the guy, or Booker pops up and says that he can't find the guy. Of course, Booker eventually finds the guy, but we have no idea how...he just gets it done.
Midway through watching this film, I couldn't help but think to myself: this would have made an amazing television series. Everyone knows that I'm a sucker for a flashback, and fleshing out this story through several episodes would have allowed for so many beautiful, beautiful flashbacks. In the end though, I'm not sure it needed it. It's a two hour film, and the story that we get within that two hours is really well-paced and interesting. At the end of the day, I don't really feel like there's any extra information that I needed (except for maybe how Booker finds things). And look, despite the fact that it's not a television series, I won't be surprised if there is a sequel...or two... In fact, I'll be surprised if there isn't a sequel; the ending perfectly prepares us for one.
I enjoyed this movie. If action/fantasy/superhero films with a dash of flashbacks are your flavour, then I'd highly recommend watching The Old Guard. I'm hoping that the aforementioned-hinted-at-sequel, isn't being released too far into the future. The Old Guard may live forever, but I certainly don't. So bring it on.