The Old Guard is everything we didn’t know we needed.
Gina Prince Bythewood made history as the first Black woman to direct a comic book film. Best known for beloved films like Love & Basketball and All The Lights, Bythewood has departed from her usual offerings with the action-packed flick, and the result is a major win.
The film was the most-viewed title on Netflix over its opening weekend and for good reason. Kiki Layne is a badass hero we never get to see on the big screen and Charlize Theron delivers another awe-inspiring performance.
Based on the graphic novel series by Greg Rucka, the film centers on a warrior named Andy (Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries.
But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.
Together with Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and the newest immortal, Nile (KiKi Layne), Andy leads the team on a covert, darkly altruistic path through the ages, balancing harm with good, and taking a life when necessary in order to save thousands of others. But their secret is exposed when an operation brought to them by an ex-CIA operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) backfires, threatening their existence.
This film entertains from start to finish and the peculiar premise works especially well at a time when all of us could use a break from reality.
On the surface, The Old Guard delivers everywhere an action film should. There are mind-blowing special effects, exhilarating fight scenes, and unexpected twists. The blood and gore is graphic and satisfying, but not too much for a more sensitive viewer to swallow.
Still, the characters are extremely relatable and immediately captivating; a feat that speaks volumes about the actors who played them as well as Bythewood’s knack for drawing us in.
While the film captures much of the grit and passion of the graphic novels, Bythewood expanded Nile’s role in the story and the change made all the difference. Layne’s talent is on full display and her range spans far beyond her mesmerizing performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. She has an effortless intensity, a subtle way of conveying deep emotion so effortlessly, it’s hard not to hang on her every word.
Lurking just below the surface, however, is a much more layered tale that begs several big questions.
What happens when death is no longer on the table? How do you find meaning when everything that ever mattered is suddenly out of reach? Where do we find purpose when hopelessness feels like the only option?
Another through-line of the film is the interconnection we all share on some level. Whether through shared history, collective memory, or the inevitable ways each of our actions have a ripple effect on the world, the film reminds us that we are never truly alone.
We won’t give away the ending, but The Old Guard certainly left the door open for several sequels to come. While it’s certainly gratifying as a stand alone, the foundation it has laid makes room for far more stories to tell.
Let’s hope the success of this film helps move the needle when it comes to expanding the roles of Black women in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera.