‘Free Guy’ movie review: Ready Player Ryan Reynolds

With a wildly inventive concept and fantastic action, this video game comedy-thriller is a lot of fun

What makes Free Guy so wonderful apart from the clever concept, dizzying action and bright pop of colours, is the delightful lightness of being. The idea of characters becoming self-aware is not new. Nor is the idea of us being tiny cogs in some big, fat, hectic wheel turned by unfeeling, unthinking gods who will most definitely kill us for sport. The Matrix put Neo and gang in a simulation (steak and all), The Truman Show was reality TV while Ready Player One saw people voluntarily choose to live in a simulation to escape the horrors of the post-apocalyptic real world.

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The Matrix was rather serious about the rabbit hole, the red and blue pill and Kansas going bye-bye. Free Guy, on the other hand, has a bunch of fun with its very serious concept, which like The Matrix uses Plato’s (no less) Allegory of the Cave as its central conceit.

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) has a humdrum life. He wakes up, says hello to his goldfish, chooses his outfit of the day from a rack of identical blue shirts and khaki trousers, heads to the coffee bar for the same cup of coffee and goes to the bank where he works as the teller. The bank is robbed a surprisingly great many times. Guy and his best friend, the security guard, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), know the drill and the moment the hold-up happens throw themselves on the floor and continue chatting.

Free Guy

  • Director: Shawn Levy
  • Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar
  • Storyline: A man realises he is a character in a video game and decides to break out of his program
  • Duration: 115 minutes

As Guy is going on with his placid life, we see a programmer, Millie (Jodie Comer) trying to get proof against Soonami Games’ head developer, Antwan, (Taika Waititi), who she is convinced has stolen the source code of a game she developed with Keys (Joe Keery), to create the wildly successful Free City.

Guy is not aware that he is one of the NPCs in Free City. Life goes on until Guy hears Molotov Girl (Millie’s online avatar) singing his favourite song Fantasy by Mariah Carey. Guy suddenly wants more and deviates from his programming. When Millie tells him to level up, he decides to do so by being the good guy instead of robbing and killing and thus captures the imagination of gamers worldwide.

The real and unreal collide as NPCs become self-aware and nasty thieves steal IP in the real world, but all comes right in the end with free choice and true love winning through. The Barista (Britne Oldford) and Bombshell (Camille Kostek) find their true purpose in life.

Reynolds is delightful as Guy and even more hilarious as Dude, his slightly thick avatar, while Utkarsh Ambudkar gets some smart lines as Soonami programmer, Mouser. There are a bunch of fun cameos by gamers and streamers (Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam) and actors, including Channing Tatum, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Dwayne Johnson and Hugh Jackman.

Free Guy brings to mind Jasper Fforde’s wildly inventive Thursday Next series. In The Well of Lost Plots, Thursday takes maternity leave in the unpublished detective novel, Caversham Heights. As we all know side characters in genre fiction do not have much to do, and are restful holiday homes for taxed literary detectives.

It is a grim world out there and the grimmer it gets, play and laughter seem to be the only way to counter it as Free Guy so gloriously reveals.

Free Guy will play in theatres from September 17


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