The Old Guard (2020 Movie)

  • Movie

What do you ask of the woman who can seemingly do anything? More, apparently.

We knew Charlize Theron was an accomplished producer, Oscar-winning actor, and former model. In early June, she added magazine cover photographer to her already very impressive resume, shooting EW's new digital cover herself, in her backyard.

"It was fine until you guys said you wanted a moving image, which is really hard — to selfie yourself on video while you're trying to look cool in the movement," she said later. "That was the game-changer right there. It was not easy."

The Old Guard feels easy, in that smooth summer movie way, a slick action flick based on a smart comic book. It's not neutered or dumbed down, no punches pulled or love stories de-gayed for a PG-rated product placement.

It's also the first movie I've seen in COVID times that made me angry — on its behalf, and for its missed opportunities and, selfishly, my own to enjoy it in the purest sense possible. It's really good. Really loud. Really big. Really queer. Really fun. The kind of movie I'd want to see opening night at the tallest screen in town with my wife and friends and a crowd gasping and screaming and cheering along. It wasn't a movie Netflix needed to stage with a theatrical awards campaign rollout, like Roma or The Irishman, but it was the best example I've seen yet of how a streamer (and its audience) would want to see one on the big screen, for the buzz and, yes, sheer pleasure of it. (Our critic Leah Greenblatt isn't quite as impressed, which is fine!)

When we started talking about putting Theron on an EW digital cover, there was no reason to think that wouldn't happen. By the time I saw the film, though, we were already all homebound and questioning everything we thought we knew about how movies would work in the near future. My home TV set-up is fine but it's no Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight in Hollywood. The fight scenes are still bold and bloody, the explosions go boom just when you stop waiting for them, the stakes are high and the music cues dramatic.

But watching it again this week, I was struck most by the tiny moments in director Gina Prince-Bythewood's storytelling and how gingerly her cast performs them. KiKi Layne's tough vulnerability as she grapples to understand why she didn't die, putting in earbuds and disappearing into the surround sound of a Frank Ocean song. The gentle wink Marwan Kenzari aims at Luca Marinelli as they recall their millennium-old meet-cute across a Crusades battlefield. "We killed each other," Kenzari says lovingly, and Marinelli finishes, "Many times."

And yes, there's Theron floating through it all with a weary, annoyed, mother-of-five-immortals swagger. As they assembled for a video roundtable, the other actors still referred to her as "boss," and pledged in solidarity they'd strike their own best cover model pose. (See above for video evidence of this beautiful ridiculousness.)

Theron is as delighted by their antics as her character is exhausted by them. "Nothing I did was anything close to as exciting as what you guys just did — so I'm sorry, team, if I let you down."

The Old Guard is a big summer blockbuster and because it's also a nuanced adaptation of a great story it still feels like one even on a small screen. This is a magazine cover made to fit on your Instagram feed, in the palm of your hand. But the tiniest cover is still set into motion by a giant star.

"No more," Theron swears. "I'm not shooting any more things in my backyard."

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The Old Guard (2020 Movie)
Netflix's 'The Old Guard' finds Charlize Theron once again playing a life form vastly superior to humans.
  • Movie
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood