Movie Review: “The Old Guard”


While 2020 may not have been a great year for movies, “The Old Guard,” released on July 10 on Netflix, has risen to unexpected heights. The movie follows a group of undying mercenaries composed of Booker, Nicky, and Joe and led by Andromache “Andy” of Scythia (Charlize Theron) who for millennia have worked in secret to help the world. A slip up reveals their true nature to a money-hungry CEO who wants to exploit them for an anti-aging drug, forcing them to run whilst taking care of Nile Freeman (Kiki Lane) who has inexplicably gained immortality herself. Many have praised the movie for breaking barriers through its diverse casting and unconventional portrayal of minorities. Viewers were especially pleased by its depiction of female characters, who instead of being sexualized and placed in minor roles, are treated as figures who can fend for themselves. On the same note, many people were pleasantly surprised by the healthy queer romance of Nicky and Joe, which lacks the characteristic audience pandering and censorship that such relationships tend to have onscreen; instead, they are portrayed as a realistic couple whose affections toward each other are never hidden. Additionally, there was praise for the well-crafted action scenes, which impressed viewers through their thrilling choreography and the gruelling behind-the-scenes work the actors did to master them.

“Although I am personally not a fan of battle scenes, I thought that “The Old Guard” did a great job in incorporating these elements to heighten the quality of the movie,”  Jennah Yoo (10) said. “For me, the scene that left the most impact was the fight scene between Andy and Nile, as I thought that it was one of the scenes that most definitely emphasized all the time and effort Charlize Theron had put into playing the role of Andy. Overall, my experience with “The Old Guard” was fun, and I would go as far as recommending it to people who typically don’t like the action genre.” 

Some other strengths the movie possessed were its compelling characters and a good balance of action and emotional scenes. Although all of the main cast are immortals, the writers avoided grouping their motivations and personalities into a monolith; some of the cast are satisfied with their immortality, while others like Andy and Booker less so. Andy’s character in particular was intriguing. Despite being the oldest immortal, she embodies many modern-day worries through her dismay at the state of the world she worked so hard to improve. Yet although the movie has numerous scenes of character development, they are not done at the expense of action ones. The movie contains plenty of intense fight sequences packed with guns and hand-to-hand combat, which contrast nicely with emotional scenes where the main cast grapple with the consequences of immortality. Like any movie, however, “The Old Guard” has its share of flaws as well as strengths. Despite its characters being compelling and intriguing, they are developed in a dull manner. For instance, instead of gradually revealing Andy’s backstory throughout the course of the movie, it is told word for word in a single scene in which the characters are sitting around a table. Another poor choice made by the director was the soundtrack, which often lacked the intensity needed to match the battle scenes. It could have done better with a more limited song list with less auto tuned pop and more instrumental tracks, allowing the scenes to speak for themselves. 

“If I had to pick a few improvements I’d like in The Old Guard, it would be the soundtrack and the characteristics of the main antagonist. The soundtracks in some scenes felt out-of-place and distracting,” June Jeong (10) said. “The music didn’t fit the mood of the action sequences and I lost focus at one point during one. I hope to hear more original soundtracks in the next movie. Also, Merrick, the main antagonist, was quite obvious and a bit cliché; he was that cliché character that was rich, ambitious, maniacal, and witless.”

Overall, watching the “The Old Guard” was a pleasant experience, and while there were some aspects that could have made it better, its unique characters and subverting of stereotypes outweighed the flaws. Since the movie ends on a cliffhanger, there’s a high chance that “The Old Guard” will develop into a series. Many are hoping it to be a harbinger for more diversity in superhero films; in an industry where many female characters play inconsequential roles in contrast to their starring male counterparts, it was a breath of fresh air to have a well developed female lead like Andy. People are also looking forward to more superhero films made by independent creators rather than corporations like Marvel or DC Comics, which have dominated the market for the past decade. Many agree that this potential flow of new ideas would make for an exciting playing field and are curious to see what the “The Old Guard” has to offer in the future.

“While watching the movie, I was immediately swept away by the fast-paced action yet I wondered what exactly was I watching. Once it was revealed that the main characters were immortals set out to right wrongs, I was hooked,” said Tim Gardes, Secondary School Librarian. “That said, at some point, I kept thinking that I wanted to know more about each one and how they came together over the centuries resulting in the modern-day sequences in ‘Old Guard’. Directors, if you’re listening, skip the sequel — give us a prequel!”