REVIEW: ‘The Old Guard’ exceeds expectations and shirks stereotypes

Correspondent Whitney Ervin reviews the 2020 Netflix original “The Old Guard.” (Courtesy of Netflix)Correspondent Whitney Ervin reviews the 2020 Netflix original “The Old Guard.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

Whitney Ervin, Correspondent

It is easy at first glance to write “The Old Guard” off as just another flashy action movie. Add in the fact that it is — yet another — comic book adaptation, and one wouldn’t be flawed in thinking they were getting just another formulaic piece of film. 

Netflix did a very good job at setting up the marketing to make it look as such, after all, with its trailers mostly showcasing the dazzling fight scenes and the scenes of the immortals healing themselves. 

So, upon watching it for the first time, I was expecting to see just another blood-soaked action movie that left my brain a bit numb. Not that there’s anything wrong with just a good old-fashioned action film. There is a reason action films have been such an enduring part of cinema for years. 

“The Old Guard” does stand up to this. There are some absolutely heart-stopping action sequences and moments that make you want to cheer. That being said, I was surprised by the nuance and poignancy wrapped up in the guise of just another comic book movie.

Based on the 2017 comic book of the same name about a group of immortal warriors led by Andy, who is portrayed by Charlize Theron. 

Andy, the oldest of the immortals at over 6,000 years old, is more than a bit disillusioned with humanity. This disillusionment is shared by fellow immortal Booker, portrayed by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts. Nonetheless, at the urging of the more optimistic Joe, portrayed by Marwan Kenzari, and Nicky, played by actor Luca Marinelli, the group takes a mercenary job, seemingly to rescue a group of hostage children. 

Meanwhile at the same time Nile Freeman, a young Marine in Afghanistan, suffers from injuries that should have killed her. We learn that the immortals dream of one another until they eventually meet, which can at times cause great distress. The storyline converges when Andy collects Nile and takes her to the safe house to meet the rest of the group. In the night, Joe and Nicky are kidnapped during an ambush that was calculated by the movie’s big bad, pharmaceutical mogul Steven Merrick.

The plot is not exactly ground-breaking, but there are many things about “The Old Guard” that make it stand out. 

One of my favorite things about the film is that it could’ve easily gone for gritty, and yet director Gina Prince-Blythewood chose to have an undercurrent of optimism throughout the film. A common theme throughout the film is doing good in the world, and the snowball effect that can have. We all want to do good, but sometimes we can get bogged down with the “why” of it all. The film, in its own way, takes this question on. 

I think we can all see a bit of the world-weary Andy and Booker in ourselves, especially with the current state of the world. Certainly, we aren’t run down from 6,000 years of dying and then resurrecting like Andy, but the spirit is there. Andy presses on despite not knowing the reasons why, and I believe we all should too.

Another one of the highlights of the film is the relationship between Joe and Nicky, a pair of immortals who have been together for 900 years. 

There are many levels of depth to their relationship that you don’t often see in on screen relationships, same-sex or otherwise. The pair are comfortable together, and Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli carry their roles with wonderful chemistry. 

In recent years, films have become more open with portraying same-sex romances. Yet, in most cases the romances end tragically. It was refreshing to see these two men who come from vastly different backgrounds (they met while fighting on opposing sides of the Crusades) still together and deeply in love after 900 years. In a comic book film, no less!

If there is one flaw to be pointed out in the film, it is that at times the soundtrack seems a bit out of place. 

To be fair, I imagine it isn’t easy to score a film about immortals all from different backgrounds and centuries. Still, at times the music just feels out of place. 

Oftentimes, I think the songs were picked more based on the lyrics rather than the actual mood the song sets musically. That being said, this is a flaw that really didn’t stick out to me until I’d watched the film three times. It also could be a matter of opinion, since my boyfriend said he liked the song choice.

Overall, “The Old Guard” is a film that exceeds expectations and shirks stereotypes. There is something to appeal to just about any kind of viewer. Perhaps in the era of COVID-19, elections and overall turmoil in the world, “The Old Guard” might be precisely the type of movie we need right now.

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