After a mild-mannered bank teller discovers his life isn't what he believed, he finds it within himself to become the hero of his own story. Dan Jensen checks out one of the best films of the year so far.
FREE GUY is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum trilogy) and tells the story of a bank teller named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who absolutely loves the repetitive nature of his mundane life. He is comforted by the knowledge that every day will be the same, despite the city in which he lives being populated by heavily armed thugs, tanks and robots, explosions and mayhem.
Guy is oblivious to the fact that he is an NPC (non-playable character) in a video game called Free City. Everything is going just fine in Guy’s life until he meets the avatar of Mille (Jodie Comer) who he believes is the woman of his dreams. Millie, in the real world, is trying to find evidence that Free City was built around a game that she had originally written with her ex-partner “Keys” (Joe Keery) and was stolen by sly game developer Antwan (Taika Waititi).
Once caught up in Millie’s quest, Guy becomes self-aware of his non-existence and fights for the freedom of not only himself but all the other NPCs living in Free City.
On the surface, Free Guy sounds like a big, dumb action-comedy that borrows heavily from the Grand Theft Auto series. But it doesn’t take long for the movie to nestle its way into your heart and take you along for an absolutely joyous ride that will leave you inspired and reflecting on your own life. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s two hours of escapism at its best.
Ryan Reynolds is at his charismatic best here. This is one of those films where he's playing “Ryan Reynolds”, but that isn’t a bad thing. Guy starts out as wonderfully dumb and naïve, but by the time he learns who he is and figures out his purpose in his world, you’re so invested in his character that you can’t help but want him to win.
Jodie Comer is an absolute delight as Millie, playing two roles in the film — her toughened video game counterpart and the slightly nerdy video game programmer in the real world. Switching flawlessly between her native British and American accents, she plays her character lovingly and clearly had fun with the role. Equally likeable is Keery as Keys, a character with just as much to lose as Millie and providing a worthy ally in the hero’s journey.
But it’s New Zealand icon Taika Waititi as the eccentric, nasty Antwan who easily steals the show. He’s the kind of bad guy who you absolutely hate while laughing at everything he says and does. Hilariously over the top in his cruelty, Antwan is the perfect antagonist in a movie like this. The film also features some surprise cameos (both on-screen and in voice) from some Hollywood A-listers and also a few recognisable props from other films.
The video game world of Free City is a brilliantly fashioned metaphor for a dull, boring existence. The central theme of the movie is clear — if you’re feeling shackled by daily routine, step out of your comfort zone and find whatever it is to put some zing in your life. Sure, it feels a bit like the distant cousin of The Matrix and Ready Player One with a little Truman Show thrown in, but it still manages to feel fresh.
Fans of video games (especially GTA) are going to find so much to love here, but there’s plenty to enjoy if you’ve never touched a game controller in your life. The screen is always bursting with life and teeming with spectacle, with visual effects that are not only flawless but serve the story perfectly. It’s colourful and vibrant and there are several times when you’ll be laughing at silly things going on in the background that have no relevance to the plot.
For a film set in a world where anything can happen, Free Guy does fall into the trap of feeling a bit lazy at times, particularly when programmers are instantly able to help our heroes out by mashing a bunch of keys on a computer and conjuring things to aid them. But it doesn’t happen too often and honestly, you’ll be having too much fun to even really care.
Free Guy is a perfect way to help you forget about how disastrous our world is right now for a couple of hours and might even inspire you to do that thing you’ve been putting off because you don’t think you’re good enough or capable of achieving.
Free Guy opens in cinemas across the country today, 12 August.
You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.
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