Charlize Theron is one of those actresses whose beauty seems to defy the passage of time, and in The Old Guard, a new blockbuster action movie coming to Netflix, she plays a literal immortal. Just think more mercenary-for-hire than Highlander, although there are likely to be thematic similarities with the latter. The streaming giant seems to be leaning hard into action movies with big-name stars, given this film and last month’s megahit, Extraction, starring Chris Hemsworth.
(Mild spoilers for the comics below.)
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball), the film is an adaptation of the comic of the same name by Eisner-award-winning author Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Wonder Woman), with art by Leandro Fernández (Deadpool, Punisher: MAX). The main protagonist is Andromache of Scythia, aka Andy, who is trapped in an immortal life for centuries, for some mysterious reason.
Along with a few fellow immortals—including Joe and Nicky, who fought on opposite sides during the Crusades—she takes on high-risk assignments for well-heeled clients over the centuries. As Andy begins training a young, new immortal named Nile, the group faces a new threat in the form of a wealthy businessman who learns of their existence and wants to gain eternal life for himself.
Rucka wrote the screenplay himself, so we can assume the film will do his work justice. Per the official premise:
Forever is harder than it looks. Led by 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 (KiKi Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk), 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 trailer opens with the voice of Andy introducing herself to Nile as the leader of an elite group of fighters (“like you”) with “an extremely rare skill set.” Cut to a scene where Andy and her three companions are mercilessly gunned down by masked soldiers—and rise back up to take revenge. “Let’s just say we’re very hard to kill,” Andy says. Nile proves to be a promising recruit, and her rapid-healing powers develop fast. But are Andy et al. the good guys or the bad guys? “Depends on the century,” Joe (Marwan Kenzari, Murder on the Orient Express) replies.
We see a big board of clips documenting the group’s past exploits throughout history. For instance, we see that Andy saved a young girl in 1918. But immortality doesn’t mean their lives are free of pain: “Just because we keep living doesn’t mean we stop hurting,” Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts, The Danish Girl) ruefully admits.
They also face a different kind of challenge: remaining incognito in the selfie-obsessed 21st century, where everyone documents everything. “Throughout history, we’ve protected this world, fighting in the shadows,” Andy says, as we see her offer to take a photograph for a group of tourists—the better to delete one of their images that captures her in the background. “But it’s nearly impossible to disappear in the world we live in today.”
The film also stars Luca Marinelli (Trust, Martin Eden) as Nicky and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Doctor Strange) as Copley, who seeks to capture the immortals so they can be weaponized. There’s also an appearance by Harry Melling, who played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise, although the actor has lost so much weight since then, he’s well-nigh unrecognizable. He seems to be playing an evil scientist on Team Copley: “If we can unlock their genetic code the entire world will be begging us for the key,” he says.
Rucka’s comic ended with a major betrayal and a cliffhanger, and if the film adaptation follows suit, we could be looking at an eventual sequel—especially if Theron proves to be as big of a draw as Hemsworth in Extraction. The Old Guard debuts on Netflix on July 10, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix