The Old Guard (2020)


Introduction

The Old Guard is a 2020 American superhero film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka, based on his comic book of the same name.

A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.

The film stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and follows a team of immortal mercenaries that go on a revenge mission.

The Old Guard was released on 10 July 2020, on Netflix. It received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the action sequences.

Outline

Andromache (“Andy”) of Scythia, Booker, Joe, and Nicky are centuries old warriors with regenerative healing abilities who use their vast experience to help people. Former CIA operative Copley hires them ostensibly to rescue a group of kidnapped children in South Sudan. During the mission, however, they are ambushed by a squad of soldiers. After healing their wounds and killing their attackers, they find recording equipment and realise that Copley set them up to expose their apparent immortality.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, US Marine Nile Freeman has her throat slit while taking down a military target, only to recover without a scratch. Soon after, she shares a disturbing dream with the other immortals, who are then alerted to her existence. Despite the team’s world-weariness, Andy tracks down and rescues Freeman before military personnel can abduct her for testing.

Copley shows video of the ambush to pharmaceutical executive Steven Merrick, who sends operatives to capture the team and learn the secrets of their abilities. Andy brings Nile to France, where Nile meets the rest of their team. She is told about Quynh, the first of Andy’s comrades, who centuries ago was captured by priests and cast into the sea in an iron coffin, and has been continually drowning ever since for more than 500 years. The group also reveals that they are not truly immortal: their ability to heal eventually stops without warning.

The group are ambushed by Merrick’s forces; Joe and Nicky are captured while a heavily wounded Booker is left behind as bait for Andy. Andy instead kills their assailants, but soon afterwards discovers that she has lost her immortality, as the injuries she sustained in the fight have not healed. Booker locates Copley, but Nile declines to join them to go after him, unable to accept her destiny to outlive her friends and family.

Andy and Booker confront Copley, only for Booker to shoot her as more of Merrick’s operatives close in. Booker defends his betrayal, arguing that Merrick might find a way to end their immortality. He realises with horror that Andy is not healing as they are captured. Copley has a change of heart when he sees that Merrick is willing to torture the immortals indefinitely to study them. Nile, having realised Booker sold out the group, arrives too late to intervene, but she convinces Copley to assist her in a rescue mission.

Copley and Nile storm Merrick’s London office. Nile advises Copley to go back because it is too dangerous for him. After the rest of the immortals are freed, they fight their way out through the rest of Merrick’s security, ultimately killing Merrick himself.

As punishment for his betrayal, Andy forbids Booker from contacting the rest of them for 100 years. The rest of the group meet with Copley, who reveals how he had tracked them down, and how their past missions had a greater effect than they ever knew, with the descendants of people they have rescued going on to help the world. With renewed faith in their mission, the group tasks Copley with keeping their existence a secret.

Six months later in Paris, a drunken Booker is astonished to meet Quynh in his apartment.

Cast

  • Charlize Theron as Andy/Andromache of Scythia.
  • KiKi Layne as Nile Freeman, a former US Marine who served in Afghanistan.
  • Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker/Sebastian Le Livre, once a French soldier who fought under Napoleon.
  • Marwan Kenzari as Joe/Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior who had participated in The Crusades, as well as Nicky’s lover.
  • Luca Marinelli as Nicky/Nicoló di Genova, a former Crusader. He and Joe started off as enemies, but became lovers after discovering their immortality.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as James Copley, former CIA agent grieving the loss of his wife from ALS.
  • Harry Melling as Steven Merrick, greedy CEO of a pharmaceutical empire.
  • Van Veronica Ngo as Quynh.
  • Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Meta Kozak.
  • Joey Ansah as Keane.

Production

In March 2017, Skydance Media picked up the rights to adapt the comic The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez, into a film. Rucka’s contract stipulated that a major scene highlighting the romance between the characters Joe and Nicky from the comic book must also be in the film adaptation.

On July 2018, they hired Gina Prince-Bythewood to direct with Rucka adapting his comic book to screenplay and Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger producing. With a budget of about $70 million, Prince-Bythewood became the first black woman to direct a big-budget comic book film. In March 2019, Netflix picked up worldwide rights to the film and agreed to finance it with Skydance. Charlize Theron joined the film and also produced with Beth Kono, A.J. Dix, Marc Evans and Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Don Granger.

KiKi Layne was confirmed to star in the film after Netflix picked up the rights. In May 2019, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Luca Marinelli joined the cast of the film. In June 2019, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, and Veronica Ngo joined the cast of the film. At Ngo’s request, details of her character were changed from the comic book. In an interview, Rucka said “When Veronica was cast, she said I’m not Japanese, I’m Vietnamese. [Director Gina Prince-Bythewood] reached out to me and said ‘Can we accommodate that?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ […] Noriko becomes Quynh, Quynh is now Vietnamese. It really was as simple as wanting to honour that, and be respectful of that”. The other change to the character was the character’s death. “In the comic, Quynh/Noriko is washed overboard during a storm rather than deliberately drowned. According to Rucka, that was partially a logistical change to save money. […] But Quynh’s new ‘death,’ solidified by Prince-Bythewood’s suggestion of the iron maiden imagery, served an important narrative and tonal role as well”.

Principal photography for the film began in Europe in mid-May 2019. Filming took place in Morocco, the United Kingdom and at Shepperton Studios in England. Sandwich in Kent was used as a double for the French town Goussainville. Sandwich’s Discovery Park doubled as Merrick Pharmaceutical headquarters throughout the film.

Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka composed the film score. Lakeshore Records released the soundtrack on 10 July 2020, coinciding with the film streaming release.

Trivia

  • The Old Guard was released on 10 July 2020 on Netflix, and it was the top-streamed item on the site over its first weekend.
  • The graphic novel that originated the film, The Old Guard: Force Multiplied, has four issues, so fans can expect this movie to have sequels.
    • At least a second one is already in Netflix’s pipeline, with signed contracts by the main characters.
  • According to Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne, most of the stunts were made by the main actors.
  • The airplane fighting scene between Andy (Charlize Theron) and Nile (KiKi Layne) was the first sequence shot to the movie.
    • Theron was nervous because it was the first week of shooting, the character was new and things were still being adjusted, and Layne because she had never done anything like that.
    • Theron explained to Variety that it was done on purpose because the whole scene would set the tone for the whole relationship between both characters.
  • The very first fighting scene was complicated because actors did not learn the choreographed moves all together.
    • The rehearsals were made apart, the male actors did it in London and Charlize in Los Angeles.
    • They were all put together for the first time to shoot the scene and still some adjustments had to be made.
    • According to Matthias Schoenaerts they spent a week shooting it, and probably 3000 of shots at least were made to complete it.
  • When Andy gives Nile her own phone back, the lock screen’s date lists “Sunday, April 21”.
    • There are two assumptions about the time of this movie: either it takes place in 2019 or in the (slight) future when the next occurrence of 21 April on a Sunday will be 2024, followed by 2030.
  • This is the second time Charlize Theron played an immortal character that is connected to another immortal(s) after Hancock (2008).
  • When they travel to England, they go to Surrey.
    • Harry Potter lived in 4 Privet Drive in Surrey. Harry Melling, who plays Merrick, played Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s cousin.
  • The “Merrick HQ” was located on Fetter Lane, Holborn London.
  • When Booker is killed by a grenade in the church, he is watching soccer.
    • He is watching a game of the national team of Belgium.
    • The actor who plays Booker, Matthias Schoenaerts, is from Belgium.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Gina Prince-Bythewood.
  • Producer(s): David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Charlize Theron, AJ Dix, Beth Kono, and Marc Evans.
  • Writer(s): Greg Rucka.
  • Music: Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran.
  • Cinematography: Tami Reiker and Barry Ackroyd.
  • Editor(s): Terilyn A. Shropshire.
  • Production: Skydance Media, Denver and Delilah Productions, and Marc Evans Productions.
  • Distributor(s): Netflix.
  • Release Date: 10 July 2020 (US).
  • Running Time: 125 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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