The Old Guard

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Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne in 'The Old Guard.'
Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne in 'The Old Guard.'
Photo: Aimee Spinks/Netflix


The Old Guard




3/5 Stars


Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die has fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it's up to Andy and Nile (KiKi Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetise their power by any means necessary.


"Is this it? Will this time be the one?" Charlize Theron asks with a bullet in her head in the grisly opening scene of The Old Guard. But see, there's nothing Charlize Theron can't do, and in this Netflix film, it's die.

The streaming service's latest big-ticket production sees the Academy-Award winning actor – who's established herself as an action star in recent years with titles such as Atomic Blonde, Aeon Flux and Mad Max: Fury Road – lead a group of immortals in their fight for justice. Though they've saved many lives over centuries, their greatest battle is upon them as they try to protect their secret against those who want to exploit their powers, all the while recruiting a new member to join their four-person army.

The superhero movie, based on the graphic novel series by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández with the screenplay written by Rucka, does well to establish itself in the genre. The film is beautifully shot in Morocco and England and combines the witty banter of the crew with explosions, storeys-high drops from tower blocks and fight scenes, or rather, sequences.

They're so well-choreographed, you won't be able to miss the fact that these characters have grown so close over centuries together they're "completing each other's fights," as Marwan Kenzari put it in an interview with Channel24. The actor revealed it took six or seven weeks of sword fight training and gun tactics, which continued through filming, to make kicking ass and taking names look like a cakewalk.

As entertaining as those fight sequences are though, the real success of this action film are the slower, more profound scenes that explore the idea of immortality as a superpower that is not desirable but, instead, tragically life-changing. In one scene, Matthias Schoenaerts delivers an emotional performance as Booker when he opens up about having to say goodbye to his son, while Marwan Kenzari's Joe gives an unforgettable speech about how much Nicky means to him.

"He's not my boyfriend," he tells his captors, who are mocking their relationship. "This man is more to me than you can dream. He's the moon when I'm lost in darkness, and warmth when I'm shivering cold. And his kiss still thrills me even after a millennium. His heart overflows with a kindness which this world is not worthy of. I love this man beyond measure, reason; he is not my boyfriend. He's all, and he's more."

His monologue highlighted the importance of love when you're living forever, and if I'm being honest, it was actually every scene with Joe and Nicky – who fought against each other as enemies during the Crusades – that brought a bit of humour and heart to the film for me. There were far too few scenes of the two of them.

That being said, Charlize Theron switched flawlessly between the badass, sword-wielding Andromache of Scythia, aka, Andy – the oldest member of the team – and the tired, jaded and disillusioned leader of her crew. There really is nothing Charlize Theron can't do.

KiKi Layne as Nile – the newest member of the team who isn't centuries old but has died recently in combat in Afghanistan – gives real emotion to her performance, showing the sudden tragedy of finding out what it means to live forever.

The two playfully bounce off one another and drive almost the entire narrative of the film – it was satisfying to see them front and centre as they work their way through an entire room of armed men too. I mean it's as implausible as ever, but it was gratifying seeing a female leader and a black female superhero over a man in tights for a change. And I'm pretty sure I'd trust Andy and Nile with my life after seeing them in action.

With great performances and the perfect balance between action and drama, I thoroughly enjoyed the film but felt there were things that could have been further explored – like Chiwetel Ejiofor's character whose motives are explained in one, very short scene – while others we could have done without, like the cringe-worthy, old-timey flashbacks that just seemed out of place.

That being said, The Old Guard seems to have only touched the surface – and teased the possibility of a sequel too. And I wouldn't mind traversing more of this particular, fresh as that badass pixie cut on Charlize, superhero universe.


ALSO READ | We chat to Charlize Theron's army of immortals about love and living forever in The Old Guard

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