“Hey, I’m here with my best friend, trying to help him through a tough time. If that ain’t real, I don’t know what is.”
The Truman Show for the digital generation, Free Guy imagines a videogame NPC becoming self-aware and breaking free of his scripted routine, commenting on the way we live our lives as well as our treatment of virtual characters. The videogame conceit lends itself to cameos from big-name streamers but the creative freedom offered by Free City’s virtual environment is spent predominantly on ostentatious Fortnite-esque visual effects rather than memorable action. Ryan Reynolds is ideal as the charmingly guileless everyman as is Jodie Comer in a more nuanced role as both a player and a programmer with her own agenda, but the film leans too heavily on the likability of its characters at the expense of smarter social commentary. On the tech side, Free Guy is to AI what Hackers is to hacking — this is designed to be surface-level entertainment and swiftly falls apart on deeper examination. Despite its cartoonish violence, this is a summer blockbuster fun filled with genuine warmth.
When Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander was cast as the iconic Lara Craft, many hoped that Tomb Raider might finally crack the elusive high-quality videogame-to-film adaptation. Sadly, those hoping for more than a generic action movie will be disappointed by the results. Although it broadly follows the story beats of the 2013 videogame reboot, the script presents this as an uninspired origin story in which our orphaned heroine bizarrely spends the first half hour moping around London as a bike courier, presumably in an effort to make the heiress more relatable. Meanwhile it omits many of the scenes that demonstrate Lara’s transformation into a survivor. Vikander does what she can with the material, but apparently “this kind of Croft” is bland and largely passive until she returns to London in the film’s final few minutes. It is telling that even Walton Goggins struggles to make his villain in any way memorable. Ultimately the film is strongest in its fan-service moments, which is rarely a mark of quality.
“We’ve kind of got a bit of a “save the world” situation here.”
A bloated sequel that tries to recapture its anarchic satire of the Bond franchise’s excesses with muted success and decidedly less charisma from its leads, I actually enjoyed this far more than I feared from its critical reception. Arguably the story’s chief sin is swiftly to sideline its female cast, leaving once again a field of exclusively male agents. It makes the film’s direct references to equality and loyalty feel somewhat crass. Seeing the British Kingsmen working alongside their US counterparts, The Statesmen, is perhaps tailored to me (pun intended) but the creative design throughout both the Statesman HQ and the villain’s lair is wonderful. Whilst nothing matches the first film’s church brawl, there is still substantial creativity to the action set pieces.