The Old Guard
Cast: Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
The Charlize Theron-starrer, The Old Guard, just out on Netflix, plays like a conventional thriller. It is sort of female Bond adventure with blazing guns and swinging machetes and has two very important messages. One implies mankind’s craze for immortality. Have we not seen the run for anti-wrinkle creams and anti-ageing pills. The other, connected to the first, is pretty overt. The greed of pharmaceutical companies to pile up profits at any cost. And this includes torturing men to find out why they have lived for so long, and this is what forms the crux of the movie’s plot. So, to dismiss The Old Guard as yet another superhero stuff will be unfair.
Adapted from the 2017 graphic novel by Greg Rucka (who also penned the screenplay), The Old Guard connects us with a team of crime and injustice fighters, and they live hundreds of years and whose bodies can repair themselves from any wound (from bullets, from knives and so on). These ageless guys are led by Andromache of Scythia, also called Andy, played with superb grit and finesse by Charlize Theron. We are told that each member was “killed” at some point in history, but they just wake up and walk away. It is at this juncture they learn that they will not die, and Andy, the oldest, does not even know the number of centuries she has lived through. Some in the team “died” during the Crusade, some in Napoleonic wars.
As the first scenes come into focus, we see Andy and her warriors – Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) assigned by James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor with each expression loaded to say something) to rescue young girls taken hostage by militia in South Sudan. But when Andy and her team reach the place they find that they have been set up. Though they escape – with bullets falling off their bodies and the deepest of wounds healing magically – they are not so lucky later.
Merrick (Harry Melling), the villain of the peace, runs a pharmaceutical corporation and is bent on finding out why Andy and her compatriots live forever. He gets to them, imprisons them and in what appears like sheer torture, extracts DNA samples from them. Kiki Layne, who essays Nile is a US Marine in Afghanistan and when she recovers from a slit throat, she becomes the newest member of Andy’s brigade. And in the end, she, though surly and bitter about a life that will never end, proves to a saviour.
The Old Guard is a fantasy, that may seem highly unreal, even mystical, but scratch the surface, one can find a great lot of relevance to a world that has been consistently trying to prolong human life with pharma companies ruthlessly trying to capitalise on this vulnerability. They can be rogues as the film emphasises, making unduly huge profits while pretending to play noble Samaritans. Merrick says, imagine the benefits mankind will enjoy and the money we can roll. Torturing Andy and her fighters seems like a small price to pay for him. Ethics be dammed!