TL;DR – who knew the existential crisis of an artificial intelligent bank teller could be so much fun?
Review (warning: spoilers)
“Don’t have a good day, have a great day,” says Guy (Ryan Reynolds).
“In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night,” says Truman (Jim Carrey).
It it not just with their catch phrases that there are similarities between Guy (in Free Guy (2021)) and Truman (in The Truman Show (1998)). Both characters do not realise that the world they reside in is not the real world. Both live a life of routine; they interact with real people who know the truth; their innocence and naivety are used for comic purposes; and their lives are turned upside down when they discover the truth.
The primary difference is that Guy is a non-player character (NPC) in a video game called “Free City” (i.e. he’s not real), while Truman is an actual living being in a reality show.
All NPCs in video games have programmed instructions on how they act and react to real life gamers who interact with them. They never deviate from this, as their code prescribes their actions. For Guy, he’s a bank teller NPC who serves customers, says his catchphrase and every day the bank is robbed by multiple gamers, he reacts like any good bank teller when they’re getting robbed by lying on the ground and being as little a threat as possible.
He lives in “Free City”, a popular massive multiplayer online role playing game, where players create characters that are as bad-ass as possible. Leveling up involves accepting any number of criminal tasks and acquiring a bat cave load of weaponry and vehicles.
However, Guy’s routine suddenly changes when he encounters Molotov Girl (created by gamer and programmer Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer)). It soon becomes apparent that Guy is not constrained by his underlying code, if anything his code base expands indicating he actually has artificial intelligence, and he undergoes the expected existential crisis when Molotov Girl reveals to him that he is inside a video game and is not actually a real person.
In parallel to this, Millie and co-programmer, Walter McKeys (Joe Keery), work together to find evidene that “Free City” is actually based on code they created for a game they made called “Life Itself”. Pathways intersect when Walter reveals to Millie that Guy is based on artificial intelligence code he created. Millie (as Molotov Girl) and Guy go on to discover that the game “Life Itself” is hidden beyond the boundaries of “Free City” and look to bridge the gap to find it.
Meanwhile, Antwan (Taika Waititi in hilarious form) plays the villain responsible for stealing Millie and Walter’s code and is now looking to destroy all evidence of “Life Itself” by shutting down “Free City” in order to release its sequel “Free City 2”. Waititi must of had a ball being part of this movie as he delivers his lines with comic vitriol and also gets to destroy an entire server room with an axe.
The balance between humour and drama struck a chord for me, and the overall roller coaster ride filled with geek references, cameos from YouTube gamers, great chemistry between the entire cast and solid story had me smiling from ear to ear. It’s always a good sign when I walk out of a cinema and feeling the desire to watch the movie again. For some viewers, it may all seem too geeky or silly (a pale imitation of The Truman Show), but I’m a geek so this is right up my alley. Thank you very much.
Free Guy also has the underlying positive message to go live your life and not get stuck in a loop. So, go do what you really want to do. Don’t have a good day, have a great day!
9 out of 10