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Review: The Old Guard (2020)

The Old Guard (2020)

Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Premise: An adaptation of the comic book. A group of immortal warriors travel the globe intervening in conflicts while staying out of the spotlight. The warriors discover a new immortal and try to get to her while a pharmaceutical CEO attempts to capture them.

What Works: The Old Guard is essentially a superhero film. It’s based on a comic book and the main characters are immortal warriors, giving The Old Guard parallels to the X-Men films. But the filmmakers of The Old Guard find their own niche within the comic book and superhero pantheon. They do that by treating the premise with intelligence and creating characters who have some depth. The title of The Old Guard refers to a group of semi-immortal warriors who have been around for hundreds of years and try to assist in wars and other conflicts, nudging history by saving the innocent and dispatching the wicked. But after centuries of combat, the warriors are weary of their lot in life. The leader of the group, played by Charlize Theron, is especially disillusioned; the world appears to be getting worse despite their efforts. She’s given a renewed sense of purpose when a new immortal, played by KiKi Layne, is identified and drafted into the group. The newbie’s idealism contrasts with the veteran’s cynicism and this allows the filmmakers to solve an inherent problem of superhero adventures. Many of these kinds of films lack tension because the characters cannot die. While that mostly remains true in The Old Guard, immortality has its own challenges and the superhuman characters face internal problems that aren’t so easily solved. This film also has some impressive action sequences. The set pieces match the human approach to the characters; the scope and size of the action sequences are limited and maintain a credibility that makes them exciting. 

What Doesn’t: The Old Guard brings a slightly new approach to the immortal warrior convention but the filmmakers also skip over some of the interesting implications of their premise. For instance, these warriors can recover from devastating critical injures but the experience is traumatic and they can feel pain. The film nods to larger implications of this idea but doesn’t really explore it in any depth. Most other movies like this also skip over the implications of superpowers and immortality but because The Old Guard entertains these ideas that absence is noticeable.

DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: The Old Guard is a satisfying action film. The movie delivers as an action adventure and tells a superhero story without looking or feeling like most other comic book pictures.

Episode: #810 (July 26, 2020)