The heroes may be immortal, but this fun ride still has stakes.
The speech Joe (Marwan Kenzari) gives about his love, and the response to it, are so perfectly done that that moment alone makes The Old Guard worth watching. But it’s also fun: the action scenes throughout are solid and engaging, particularly the aeroplane fight scene which features the balletic action chops Charlize Theron showcased so stunningly in Atomic Blonde (2017).
The warriors feel eternally lived-in, with wonderful performances from Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Marwan Kenzari as Joe, and Luca Marinelli as Nicky. However, KiKi Layne‘s choices as the newly-immortal Nile feel… random?
Given that the warriors are immortal, stakes are introduced in compelling and surprising ways: that their immortality can suddenly, mysteriously, and without warning, simply end; and that being buried alive at sea in an iron coffin is viscerally horrific. Charlize’s Andy should have died at the end of this – it’s established that she will, and the reasons she doesn’t are never explained, so they must want to do sequels.
The main villain of the piece, Merrick (Harry Melling), is less interesting than he could be: where he’s simply a contemptuous, moustache-twirling Zuckerberg analog, perhaps he could believe his cruel methods of harvesting the genetic code of immortality are actually for the greater good. Or perhaps Dr Kozak (Anamaria Marinca) could be more conflicted, or at least less… “whatever”. Also, Chiwetel Ejiofor is in this?!
The music is distractingly bad. And the ending and mid-credits are TV-pilot-cheesy – although perhaps The Old Guard would be better as a series: characters could be introduced and backstories could be drip-fed one episode at a time; Joe’s love declaration could be the mid-season heart-wrencher (though it’s sold well in the film as is).