After the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, Tully and The Long Shot, Charlize Theron demonstrates yet more of her chameleonic acting talent as the ancient, inscrutable leader of a group of immortal mercenaries tasked to making the world a safer place.
Adapted by Greg Rucka from his own graphic novel — Rucka also wrote the similarly themed and superior comic Lazarus — this is an intriguing take on the superhero genre. While the group use their powers for the greater good, they also struggle with their own feelings of grief, exhaustion and fear. Among them, Matthias Schoenaerts is excellent as Booker, a haunted man struggling with the memories of his past and the weight of responsibility, and KiKi Layne makes a mark as ex-military newcomer Nile, who finds it hard to embrace the fact that her life is not what she thought it was.
Amongst them all, however, Theron is the standout. Her matriarchal Andy is thousands of years old, and wears that longevity and experience both as armor and weighty shroud. The combat prowess she showcases in the high-adrenaline action sequences is at direct odds with the somber weariness and disillusionment she displays elsewhere. Immortality is a gift until you don’t want it any more.
In the hands of director Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard is a far more subtle and introspective superhero movie than we’re used to seeing. That may have something to do with the fact that it’s a straight-to-streaming Netflix original, but its focus on the emotional and physical toll of saving the world offers a welcome change from the consequence-free carnage that usually heralds the arrival of the summer blockbuster season.