Still no theater-going here, but luckily The Old Guard went right to Netflix.
I’m going to say this up front – I loved this movie. Quality action and super fun. The movie Highlander was released in 1986 with some sequels not really of note and a TV show of note that followed in the 90s. In case you are not familiar with it, the story follows a man from the highlands of Scotland (hence the name Highlander) who is killed in battle but wakes up shortly thereafter, apparently fine. He gets tutored by an Egyptian masquerading as a Spanish knight who is really just Sean Connery in the ways of Immortals. These immortals cannot be killed except by beheading. They live their very long lives occasionally battling and killing one another for the ‘Quickening’. Basically, if you defeat another, you get their strength and power. The only rule is that they never fight on holy ground. In the end, there can be only one. Who knows when the end will be.
The reason I mention that is that this movie feels like it could easily be set in that world. The Old Guard is based on a 2017 graphic novel. The movie introduces us to Andy, or Andromache of Scythia, who is thousands of years old and straight up tired of it. She heads a small, tight unit of immortal warriors (Booker, Joe, and Nicky) who travel around taking jobs to do the most good they can. Andy has become jaded, believing that none of the good they are doing is having any effect.
Booker brings them a job from James Copley, a former CIA agent who needs their help for something he cannot accomplish on his own. The job goes sideways, and the group has to deal with being hunted by Harry Melling, a pharmaceutical CEO who sees dollar signs in immortal DNA. To complicate things, they also have to pick up and train Nile, a newly risen immortal warrior who is not sure about any of this.
The movie is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood who also directed Love & Basketball, the Secret Life of Bees, an episode of Cloak & Dagger (watch that if you haven’t yet), and a movie that really surprised me, Beyond the Lights. This movie is action packed and the action is exceptional. But tremendous action when supported by characters that are interesting and engaging can make an almost perfect movie. These characters are fascinating and the portrayals are wonderful.
Charlize Theron is an action star and is just fantastic in this role. I look forward to the planned sequel already to see what is next for Andy. Her relationship with Kiki Layne’s Nile is equally fantastic. It is such a joy to watch an action movie with two tremendous female leads. I can’t wait for Nile’s role to expand in additional features.
Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Marwan Kenzari as Joe, and Luca Marinelli as Nicky are also tremendous. I’ve seen them here and there but they really each give their characters levels of depth that is missing from most action movies. The scene where Joe explains his love for Nicky is heartbreaking and beautiful, and then is followed up with some wonderful comedic beats.
Chiwetel Ejiofor gives almost unnecessary amounts of gravitas to Copely, a guy trapped in an impossible situation after mourning the loss of his wife. Harry Melling as Merrick is one of the most punchable villains I have seen in a while.
Van Veronica Ngo plays Quynh in flashbacks and hopefully in sequels?
Overall, I loved it – 9 out of 10. Taking off a point because I wanted more detail on Andy’s special baklava identification powers and I can’t help thinking about Highlander while watching this because of the immortal warrior similarities. I did notice that in the scenes where some are bemoaning their immortality, none of them mentioned beheading, but surely that would work, right? Surely Adrian Paul could pop up in the sequel, just hanging out in Joe’s bar? In any case, the movie is fantastic, really fun, fast-paced, but with enough quiet moments to let you connect to the squad. I really enjoyed it.