Last weekend saw the release of a big-screen movie that’s sure to make perfect summer popcorn viewing.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is Free Guy about?
Free Guy is actually a video game movie, but rather than being based on an existing title, it tells an entirely original story.
It imagines the life of the titular Guy, an NPC (non-playable character) living out his days in the virtual world of Free City, an ultraviolet video game behemoth not unlike that of the real world Grand Theft Auto series.
The film becomes ever more meta and post-modern, self-referentially referencing the video gaming industry of the real world as Guy begins to come to terms with the idea that the life he has been living is a lie, and has been void of free will and meaning from the off.
We learn the incredibly popular game Free City is distributed by Soonami Studios, which is run by the greedy mogul Antwan, and so Guy starts to write his own story and becomes more and more popular with players in the real world.
Instead of his pre-programmed job of guiding players in committing unprovoked acts of hostility and vandalism, Guy attempts to take on a more wholesome approach, aided by “Molotovgirl” – Millie in the real world.
Soon enough, Antwan fears the in-game action threatens the success of Free City and its sequel, Free City: Carnage, and Guy becomes at risk of being permanently removed from the game.
Despite its close ties to the medium of video games, Reynolds is keen to point out that he doesn’t see Free Guy as “a video game movie”.
“It’s like saying Titanic is a movie about boatmanship,” quips the witty star, who’s known for films like Deadpool, The Proposal and Van Wilder. “It’s not; it’s a movie about so much more. But I loved the narrow target we had to hit, to create a world that felt so authentic to gamers and then still smuggle this other story into it.”
Director Shawn Levy, whose films include the Night At The Museum trilogy, echoes this, revealing that neither he nor Reynolds are “hardcore gamers”.
“We wanted to make a movie that was for everyone, a movie about romance and optimism. And so what I tried to do is to use gaming verbiage and accuracy, but to do it at the bare minimum.”
Who stars in it?
The star of the show is Ryan Reynolds, who brings his trademark Canadian wit and humour to the character of Guy.
Alongside him is Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer in her first Hollywood project (she has said there was the realisation “of how huge it is and how much of a machine it is” when stepping onto the big budget set), who plays Millie/Molotovgirl.
Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show, Get Out) plays Buddy, Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect) is Mouser, Joe Keery (Stranger Things) plays Walter “Keys” McKeys, and Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) is Antwan.
Is it any good?
Free Guy has been described as one of the biggest surprises of the summer blockbuster slate, at least in terms of quality.
Ahead of its being screened to critics, you may have been forgiven for thinking the finished product may have gone down like a lead balloon, but that does not appear to be the case.
The film is currently enjoying an 86 per cent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, who say the film combines “a clever concept, sweet, self-aware humour, and a charming cast”, and describe it affectionately as “frivolous fun”.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw said that while the film “isn't going to have many MA theses written about it”, it does have “entertainment value”, while Ed Power from The Daily Telegraph said that Free Guy “has an electrifying earnestness that's hugely refreshing in the era of franchises hefting around the dead weight of their own mythology.”
When can I watch it?
With cinemas shut thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the film’s release was delayed a couple of times.
It was initially scheduled to be released on 3 July 2020, but was delayed to December of that year, before being pushed back further to May 2021, and then experiencing its third and final delay to reach its current release date.
Free Guy was released in UK cinemas on Friday 13 August 2020.
Asked why it was so important for the film to be watched on the big screen, Levy – who also directs Netflix's series Stranger Things – says: “Every filmmaker wants the stories they tell to be seen as loud and as big as possible.
"We live in a brave new streaming world, and I very much have some feet in that world as well, but Free Guy was made with one goal in mind, which is collective delight. That is an experience that you can feel on your couch at home, but it feels really different among other humans in the dark.”
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