'The Old Guard' Review: An escapist entertainer that’s ideally suited to the COVID-19 times

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

In his 1890 novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, Oscar Wilde brought us face-to-face with something quite remarkable. And here I don’t just mean a central character that doesn’t age. What Wilde offers is something far more intricate. He presents us with a character whose deeds are bound to a portrait. And so while Dorian Gray stays young and beautiful, his portrait ages and records each and every sin that he commits. Gradually, the portrait becomes so hideous that it becomes impossible to identity it—serving as an irrefutable reminder of his guilt. This brings us to the new Netflix film titled ‘The Old Guard’, directed by the American filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood, which also deals with characters that don’t age. The action-fantasy film follows a covert group of mercenaries with a mysterious inability to age or die. The film is adapted by Greg Rucka, who also created the 2017 comic of the same name on which the film is based, along with illustrator Leandro Fernández.

The Old Guard throws in an interesting mix of characters who like to see themselves as heroes who have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But deep down their guilt is as real as Dorian Gray’s portrait. Now, on one hand we have the leader of the pack, Andy (essayed by Charlize), who has been around for thousands of years. “That woman has forgotten more ways to kill than entire armies will ever learn,” remarks one of her comrades. But despite having fought thousands of battles across different ages, she still has the looks and physique of a young woman.
On the other hand, we have Nicolo (essayed by Luca Marinelli) and Joe (essayed by Marwan Kenzari), who are former Crusaders. They once fought and killed each other over and over again but now are lovers as well as brothers-in-arms. Then there is Booker (essayed by Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier who once served Napoleon. They all look the same age as Andy even though they are much younger than her. Having stuck together through thick and thin for centuries, the quartet begins to find threatened when their identities are suddenly exposed during a mission. In order to help eliminate the threat, Andy now must recruit a marine named Nile (essayed by KiKi Layne) who possesses the same gifts. But will she be able to convince her to leave everything aside and join her team of ageless mercenaries?
The Old Guard is essentially an escapist entertainer that’s ideally suited to the COVID-19 times. Theron, thanks to her exploits in films like Atomic Blonde and Mad Max: Fury Road, is one of the most sought-after actors for action-oriented roles. The Old Guard is another attempt to encash upon her reputation as a female action icon. Interestingly, she is also one of the producers on the film. Now, while the action sequences in The Old Guard are quite brilliant, it is nowhere near the brilliance of Atomic Blonde or Mad Max: Fury Road. But, overall, it is much better than Extraction, which premiered on Netflix a few months back.
Rating: 6/10
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.

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