After watching The Old Guard, I had to look up audience comments online to understand what I had just seen. Why did I even watch it in the first place? Well, I was attracted by its high ratings, Charlize Theron in the lead role, and the name The Old Guard hinted at some good action. Oh, how deceived I was! I’ve read dozens of reviews (out of a few hundred that have already been made) and I have to admit that I disagree with most of the critics’ opinions. This text will present my opinion, and I understand others may not agree with it, so I recommend everyone to watch the film and come to their own conclusions. I have to admit that I haven’t come across a single comment in which the film is characterized as being funny. Yes, funny. Maybe not as a whole, but parts of it are definitely funny. Some scenes were so unconvincing that they brought a smile to my face. What’s even worse is that the film pretends to be a high-quality production, something “different and special”, but the sheer amount of logical inconsistencies it has prevents this movie from becoming anything out of the ordinary. Maybe the problem is that I’m not familiar with the graphic novel that the film is based on. If I was, perhaps the film wouldn’t have had as many plot holes as it did, but as it stands, it’s an incomplete film.
Again, this is just my honest opinion, but maybe you shouldn’t have to read a graphic novel in order to understand a movie.
On paper, the plot is perfect. The movie follows a group of immortals who have been fighting for a better world for centuries. Wonderful! The main character is Andy, short for Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron) and she is really, really old. The other members of the group, who are a bit younger, are Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and their newest member, the newly discovered immortal, Nile (KiKi Layne). At the beginning of the film, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a former CIA agent, tells them about a new assignment that brings everyone together, but Andy is not happy about it. Copley wants to capture them and hand them over to the evil CEO Merrick (Harry Melling), but for noble reasons: in order to research the nature of the group’s immortality and help the world as a result. They could be the key to tackling all diseases on Earth. And that is the center piece of the story: the hunt for the immortals, the incidental discovery of another immortal, their capture, a little betrayal here and there followed by the eventual victory of the immortals.
Basically, the group goes on a mission during which we see some historical artifacts (swords, axes) even though the viewers don’t even know yet that they are immortal. On their mission, everyone is (seemingly) brutally killed, so viewers can enjoy a rain of bullets and a sea of blood. This is followed by an unexpected turn of events as the group stand up, their wounds visibly healing, and the action is back on. They take their ancient weapons and, after a riveting action scene, all their enemies tumble to the ground. Andromache of Scythia, the eldest and wisest of the group, concludes with the words: “We’ve been set up!”.
In the first few minutes, the film seems very exciting, it seems like it has potential. The theme of immortals fighting villains is usually a fun watch, but this time it was not enough. Something went wrong over the course of the plot. The Old Guard was not conceived as a classic action film. Instead, it placed a great deal of emphasis on the psychology of its characters and their relationships with the past and the present, which was never fully developed, and the emotional impact it desperately required was missing.
I will now list specific scenes that didn’t make sense to me or seemed like they were trying to achieve something they ultimately didn’t.
A young American soldier, Nile, is brutally killed on a mission in front of her comrades-in-arms, but soon recovers without a single scratch remaining. At that moment, Andy and her team have a dream about Nile, so they decide to look for her. Nile needs help, especially since there is an ongoing hunt for immortals going on, led by Copley and Merrick. Andy goes alone in search for Nile. It’s worth mentioned that Nile is in Afghanistan, smack in the center of a U.S. military base, but Andy has absolutely no problem with that. She arrives at the base (though we don’t see how she manages to do that), literally kidnaps Nile and in the next scene we see her driving Humvee through the desert. So, not only did she manage to kidnap Nile (a trained soldier), but she also stole a Humvee from an American military base. The Americans should work on the security of their bases, because obviously anyone could at any time walk in and steal their soldiers and vehicles away. But let’s move on from that. Even more unusual was the reaction of Nile’s friends to the whole immortal situation. Nile was supposed to be dead, but then she wasn’t! And herein lies the problem. Everyone turns against her and doesn’t talk to her because she’s now some freak who stayed alive after having her throat slit. The strange recovery is somehow her fault (meanwhile, she doesn’t even know what happened) so she gets served with passive aggression. This is one example of the unconvincing and superficial reactions that take away from the characters of the film.
Andy’s & Nile’s relationship
Andy, as the oldest immortal, already has experience with bringing in new immortals. She is familiar with the stages of denial that follow after finding oneself in an unusual situation. We also learn that Andy is tired and that she can’t take it anymore, yet everything is left very vague, and more elaboration certainly wouldn’t harm the film. Andy and Nile’s conversations were an ideal opportunity to learn more about the group’s history, about Andy and her experience over her long, long life span. Instead, we get one flashback during Nile’s dream, in which the main character is someone we haven’t seen before. Immediately, it becomes clear that this third person must be relevant to the story somehow, likely appearing in the sequel, but yet again the opportunity to get to know the existing characters is deeply missed. In addition, Andy announces to Nile that she will give her answers, yet Andy’s answer to the question “Why is all this happening?” is “I wish I knew.” And that’s it, that’s all she gets; that’s the full extent of the teacher-student relationship at the beginning of the story. Andy was looking for Nile in order to help her through a frightening situation, but no support or explanation was ever given.
The group’s safe house is located on the outskirts of Paris in Goussainville. The hideout has been abandoned for 50 years due to heavy air traffic going over houses. Of course, abandoned locations near big cities are rarely actually abandoned. You can always find people who don’t have a roof over their heads nesting there, or some kids hiding from adults while doing things they aren’t allowed to do. Basically, I don’t think you need to be a military expert to conclude that their safe house, which is surrounded by bushes and trees, has its lights turned on and has no video surveillance, or at the very least any guards set up, isn’t exactly safe. In fact, the sounds of planes make it impossible for the group to hear an entire army of mercenaries land at their front door. Couldn’t they have chosen any other place on the planet?
The romantic scene between Nicky and Joe takes place after they are captured and driven to a laboratory. In the middle of said drive, Joe for some reason feels the need to explain to the mercenaries how Nicky is the love of his life in a romantic monologue that ends with the words: “He’s all and he’s more”. Then Joe and Nicky beat all the guards to a pulp with their hands tied, so I have to wonder, how were they even captured in the first place? I find that this scene did not make Joe or Nicky any more sympathetic, nor was the romance in this scene sublime, as was presumably the goal. Neither the place nor the time. Also, the pair have been warriors for centuries now, so they should know that letting their emotions out in certain situations can do more harm than good.
I agree with everyone who said the script is poorly written because the dialogues don’t deepen the story. The scenes last too long and have no emotional charge (either positive or negative), there’s just too much staring into the void; none if it evokes sympathy for or creates a connection to the characters. All in all, it comes across as being very shallow, especially since these immortals are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Their reactions should not be the reactions of the average 21st century person. This includes everything, from their interpersonal relationships, to the way they react to every impediment on their path, and especially to their betrayal. They lack maturity and wisdom, and they are often cute. Another part of the movie that failed to evoke any emotion is the music. An attempt was made to create something different and unexpected, but it resulted in music that distracts the viewer and diminishes the fight scenes, which were actually done well.
In the End…
At the end of the film it’s clear that a sequel will follow, in all likelihood more than one. With all its elements of history, fantasy, myth, action, and struggle, I’m left thinking it could have been better. The idea is fantastic, but its realization is not, although the film does have its bright moments. Considering that sequels follow, my recommendation is to watch the film as it needs to be seen in order to understand how the story will develop further, and that way you can draw your own conclusions about The Old Guard.
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Screenplay by: Greg Rucka
Based on: The Old Guard by Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández
Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Veronica Ngo, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwetel Ejiofor
If you think you may have missed something, please click on the button below to find out all about your favorite movie or series.