It’s rare that a violent, action-packed thriller begins with the death of its lead. The Old Guard opens to the chilling, lifeless stare of its narrator, Andy, and her crew as they lay mangled on the ground. From the start, The Old Guard, an action/fantasy movie released on Netflix on July 10, stands apart from others of its kind.
Andy, Booker, Joe and Nicky are a group of immortal warriors who travel the world, stealthily fighting for what they believe in. Andy, played by Charlize Theron, is the picture of a suave action lead with her leather jacket, brunette pixie cut and ever-present pair of sunglasses. Nile, played by Kiki Layne, is a marine stationed in Afghanistan who gets a rude awakening when she learns she cannot die. Nile’s confrontation with her immortality and her heartfelt dynamic with Andy prove to be a guiding force in the movie’s plot.
At the beginning of the movie, Andy is caught in existential strife. “Have you been watching the news lately? Some good means nothing,” she tells Booker, at the prospect of taking on another good samaritan mission. Nile brings fresh blood to a group that has known each other for hundreds of years, and in the process, she gives Andy a new lens with which to evaluate her life’s work.
The release of The Old Guard was eagerly awaited by fans of the popular comic series that it’s based on. Greg Rucka, author of both the comic and the screenplay, is a local Portland comic book writer who has worked on big name comics from Wonder Woman to Batman. Since the first installment of The Old Guard was published by Image Comics in 2017, the comic has had a cult following.
Leonardo Fernandez, the comic book artist, worked along with Rucka in the production of the movie. In an interview with Critical Hit, Rucka explained both he and Fernandez strived to maintain “fidelity to the intention of the comic, its heart and soul” when adapting The Old Guard into a screenplay. This isn’t Rucka’s first time watching one of his comics come to life on the screen. Stumptown, a comic he created with Matthew Southworth, premiered as a TV show with ABC in 2019.
While mentions of immortality give rise to mental images of Twilight, this movie’s take on living forever breathes some new life into an old cliche. The tone of a gritty action movie changes when the characters simply can’t die. When it only takes a couple minutes to recover from about 20 bullet wounds, characters are able to take risks and push boundaries that might otherwise be out of the question. This makes for some pretty thrilling battle scenes, especially with Andy, who expertly swings her double-bladed axe after thousands of years of practice.
Overall, The Old Guard offers the same stereotyped characters and overblown action that you might expect from an average thriller. The movie does attempt to dive deep into the heart of its characters, and this is where it shines. Andy’s confrontation with the moral implications of the life she has chosen adds depth to the story, and Nile’s new presence in the group leads to rewarding character dynamics.
By the end, the movie pushes beyond surface-level action, grappling with the question: if you could live forever, what would you fight for? Even when it fails to break from cliche, it never ceases to take a critical eye to the violence it depicts. With its carefully adapted screenplay, thrilling action, and heartfelt storytelling, The Old Guard has plenty to offer its audience.