“Free Guy” is a gaming entertainer that explores the life of Guy, a character in a game called Free City, who finds out that he is a character in a game called Free City. Sounds confusing? Well, read on to explore further.
Guy is a young man who loves his life in Free City. He wakes up in his apartment, wishes his goldfish good morning, gets his coffee, and goes to work at the bank with his best buddy, only to get robbed by goons. This is his daily routine as an NPC. Hold the horses. What’s an NPC? A non-playable character, of course. So he is a character in a game? Yes. But that’s not all. An encounter makes him break this routine and live life on his own terms. So what happens then? Well, that’s what “Free Guy” is all about.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Ryan Reynolds’ Guy, a non-playable character, lives in Free City, a GTA-inspired open-world game. He falls in love with Molotov Girl, the in-game avatar of reclusive, real-life game developer Millie (Jodie Comer), who, along with her friend Keys (Joe Keery), was instrumental in creating the game. This makes Guy take control of his life and not follow his set of instructions, making the whole game go haywire, something that the game’s owner, Antwan (Taika Waititi), doesn’t like at all. What follows is an epic battle, with Guy and Molotov Girl, aka Millie, on one side, and Antwan and Dude—an Arnold-Schwarzenegger version of Guy, built to capitalize on Guy’s newly-acquired popularity amongst gamers all around the world—on the other.
With Antwan and his loyal developer, Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar), going all-in to shut the game down once and for all, it is up to Guy and Millie to acquire a video clip hidden within Free City before it is removed from its virtual existence. The clip is the evidence that will prove that the game’s original build by Millie and Keys is still in the game, and Antwan stole their code and made his changes to call it his own. Buildings crumble to the ground; roads crack; bridges collapse as the game undergoes its breakdown, with gamers from around the world tuning in stupefied.
With a run-time of 1 hour 55 minutes approx., “Free Guy” takes a leap of faith, merging “Ready Player One” and “The Truman Show.” How? Well, “Free Guy” revolves around a game almost like “Ready Player One” does. In the movie, Guy, a non-playable character, realizes that he is not real. This is pretty much like The Truman Show, where Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, realizes that his whole life is basically a TV show.
Ryan Reynolds nails his role as Guy, especially when he is unaware that he isn’t real. His dialogue deliveries are always a treat to watch, especially in movies like this that have a fun element to them, something that he has adhered to since Deadpool. “Free Guy” is custom-made for this brand of his, and he clearly has a blast portraying Guy seamlessly. He does feel like an NPC; that’s the thing. Jodie Comer does a great job of moving in and out of her two characters, too, with two different accents, one as Millie in the real world and the other as Molotov Girl in Free City. She is spontaneous and clearly shows her acting prowess. Taika Waititi is an excellent choice for a repulsive antagonist such as Antwan, whom we cannot help but hate. He adds a touch of fun to the character with his fidgeting, which makes him even more irritating yet funny.
Since “Free Guy” features a game and is primarily set within it, the film is an ideal vehicle for outrageous action sequences with no holds barred. And thanks to ILM, Scanline, and Digital Domain, the VFX is fantastic, especially when Guy puts on the sunglasses and is able to see the Free City from a player’s perspective (with the medi-packs, money, and all other in-game things). What works even better is that they show the game from the viewers’ POV too. We can easily relate when other NPCs repeat the same lines again and again in every other scene, which is precisely what happens in games. Real-world characters, like Millie and Keys, are in contrast to their in-game avatars, something that is also pretty much the case in our world. When we play games, we become a whole different personality, immersing ourselves in that world and interacting with the characters. And what’s more, we get cameos from Chris Evans and Channing Tatum.
While “Free Guy” does show artificial intelligence and gaming culture, director Shawn Levy doesn’t get fancy with it. He keeps the movie self-aware and within the boundaries of popcorn entertainment. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, keeping in line with its genre, and is filled with funny similes, cool action, and a dash of warmth. Guy’s death would have ruined the whole movie and turned it into another sacrifice-in-the-name-of-love stereotype, but the fact that he is alive (in the game) makes it much more appealing.
The movie might give rise to questions in the minds of the viewers, like
- Are we really happy leading our lives in preordained roles?
- Doesn’t a person have the right to live life the way he or she wants to?
- What if one day, we, as the commoners, plan a mass strike against the powers that control us?
- And finally, the most important question, what right do we have to kill the NPCs who are but a reflection of ourselves?
“Free Guy” doesn’t aim to answer these apparently-existential questions. It instead tries to show them. Moreover, the movie does not let these questions drag it down, but blows lightly over them just enough for us to enjoy it while it lasts.
“Free Guy” is a 2021 video game action comedy film directed by Shawn Levy.