Shawn Levy, acclaimed filmmaker for the Stranger Things and the Night at the Museum trilogy, with this film tackles the story of “redemption”: an unplayable video game character (NPC) who becomes aware of his artificial existence. He would later rewrite its history, become an actor of his destiny and guide his family to emancipation and freedom. Did the cocktail that combines comedy, action and emotion work? The answer can be found in the following lines.
An early close in the control works for youth produced by Disney, Shawn Levy has utilized himself for more personal and ambitious projects such as Night at the Museum and Real Steel, which Steven Spielberg asked to realize, as well as his collaboration with Netflix. streaming platform for the Stranger Things series. Skipping the big family comedy box with remakes of Pink Panther or Treize la Dozaine, Canadian filmmakers are providing with Free Guy a bit of more subtle humor, a massive dose of action packed with digital effects and oozing emotion.
With a very dynamic style, the director uses effective formulas, such as opening sequence shots to immediately immerse us in the world of cinema: an ultra-violent online multiplayer game, Free City. To make it even more important, he uses a wide shot full of detail. Between explosions and shootings, we are thrust into permanent chaos that contrasts with the hero’s routine life. This contrast is amplified by frequent misunderstandings and cultural clashes between NPCs and avatars.
Free Guy presents a virtual city without faith or law Free City. Guy and Buddy, two non-playable characters; Keys and Mouser, two programmers from Soonami, a game publisher; Antwan, the greedy and hot-tempered director of Soonami and finally, the young developer Milie aka Molotov Girl. Shawn Levy directed the actors as usual with part script and part improv. As in music, the results are more natural, dynamic, and fluid. The replies exploded spontaneously and we felt at certain moments the actors really “let go” like when Antwan went berserk.
The story is about Guy (played by Ryan Reynolds), a cashier at Free City Bank, who lives a simple life and exudes optimism. He enjoys sharing a cup of coffee with Buddy, a bank security guard who is often robbed. The players or rather their avatars rank up in the game by carrying out illegal activities with violence and acts of vandalism. The eruption of the Molotov Girl in Guy’s life, which he falls in love with, will be a game changer. He will open his eyes by showing her that he is just a background character in a video game and that the only existence he knows is not real. Guy then becomes the only “good guy” in this cynical and boundless world. So much so that he became a hero to other players and NPCs. He rewrote his own story and would be interested in saving the “world”. Additionally, Milie (played by Jodie Comer) has a score to settle with Soonami’s boss stealing the title code she has developed.
While the big strings of action films are heavily punched in the punch of great digital visual effects, Shawn Levy knows how to instill a hint of humor that defuses the sometimes “too much” side of the genre. Actors participate in this mechanism by never taking themselves too seriously. Mainly because the action scenes are based on stereotypes seen in certain games like machine guns firing continuously without ever reloading and their shells littering the ground by hundreds, superhuman jumps, etc. Everything worked fine and we were stuck in the game.
Filmmakers also know how to spend quiet moments on their roller coasters in films by allowing the narrative to develop, seeing the relationships between characters weave and conveying a small message about our freedom of choice. The film also depicts the economic tensions that exist in a large video game studio. Above all, Shawn Levy manages to leave quite a bit of room for the romance between Milie and Keys, a little predictable from the start but well-bred.
Real world photography (Boston) is pretty simple and uses a really cool color palette: grey, navy, and black. The shot is thought to accentuate the impression of confusion with many handheld cameras. To transcribe the Free City, the colors are warmer and livelier. The composition is sharper with wider, symmetrical shots. Confusion between the real world and the virtual world never arises. Moving from one universe to another (a process used in many films) always ensures more dynamismsme, both visual and narrative.
To cap off the adventure that leads to its expected ending, Shawn Levy pushes the slider to the max with epic and wacky battles filled with references that will appeal to connoisseurs and the general public on loan from Minecraft or Star Wars. Free Guy offers moments of entertainment that manage to offer two levels of reading.