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It has been long loading time for Shawn Levy’s Free Guy thanks to the end boss known as the pandemic but finally it’s here, and what a sleeper hit it has been in a very difficult year for cinema, as the medium tries to finds its feet again. In fact many are saying that Free Guy is perhaps the best video game film ever made, which is kind of ironic because the film itself is not a video game adaptation, but a brand new story inspired by a plethora of video game (and movie) influences.
Ryan Reynolds is Guy, a non playable character in a widely successful and popular open world video game called Free City, but Guy aspires to more than being an observer to life and starts to act against his programming. This act of individuality, not only allows Guy to see the wider realities of his world but captures the attention of the real world outside the game.
Free Guy is a neat idea that is very well executed. Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn’s screenplay blending The LEGO Movie with The Truman Show, by way of They Live and Ready Player One. The many cameos (some eagle-eyed and eared viewers keep your senses sharp, as there are some huge faces/voices that turn up) and references will please hardcore gamers and streamers (even if some were lost on me) but a wider crowd is still reached by the superb script. One particular reference in a fight scene towards the end is uproarious in its delivery and surprise! That said, this script is not all spectacle and referential nods. Free Guy is really funny and allows for some visually spectacular set pieces to capture beautifully video game aesthetic and experience (George Richmond’s cinematography borrowing from influences as wide as The Matrix and Grand Theft Auto), but more than that, it is really rather warmly human (if perhaps giving us all way too much credit as a species).
This is a film about freedom. A celebration of being yourself, breaking the shackling systems of expectation and routine, and being good to others instead of the alternatives. Guy wins the hearts of his city and the – unknown to him – world outside of it, not because he does cool flashy s**t but because he helps people instead, and chooses to be good over being bad, and there’s something rather refreshing about that very simple message. It also helps that more layers are added to these core themes, by the wider sub-plots, including a will they/won’t they romance, and a woman on a mission to expose a tech charlatan.
Ryan Reynolds is at his most irresistible as the adorable Guy, and he is surrounded by an equally splendid supporting cast. A cast that includes a terrific Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery and Utkarsh Ambudkar. Though the scene stealer is without doubt Taika Waititi‘s douchetacular corporate wannabe hipster baddie Antwan.
From the smile-inducing opening cameo and voiceover, to the ending where Christophe Beck’s soulful score steps aside for the credits backed by Mariah Carey, Free Guy is not just a good time at the movies, it’s a great time, and not for all the reasons you may expect. An unexpectedly well rounded treat. Press start on this one as soon as you can.