Welcome to Free City. It’s here that Guy (Ryan Reynolds) works as a bank teller, dealing cheerfully with the daily hold-ups and naively blind to all the mayhem and destruction constantly going around. That is, until he meets the woman of his dreams, steals a pair of sunglasses, and suddenly sees… everything. Because Free City is a computer game – a rather nasty, brutal one at that – and Guy is merely an NPC…
Out in the real world, Milly (Jodie Comer) is trying her best to prove that Free City’s creator (Taiki Waititi) stole the game and code she wrote with Keys (Joe Keery), who now works on the Free City customer complaints desk. Her efforts to find proof in the game have so far been in vain – but now she might just have a man on the inside.
There’s a lot of joy in watching wide-eyed naïf, Guy, explore the new reality of his world, managing to learn to ‘play the game’ but with his own spin on it. There’s a slightly moral-heavy moment in having ‘real-world players’ find their viewpoints changed by ‘Blue Shirt Guy”s approach, and again in the rousing speech making parallels to said real world – although at least there’s a laugh by the end of that.
Many more laughs are provided by handfuls of clever little cameos – bet you don’t spot Hugh Jackman 😉 – and of course Reynold’s enormous capacity for sending himself up, which takes on a new level here (only slightly disappointingly spoiled by a trailer). Taika Waititi gets to ham it up marvellously as game studio boss, Antwan, while Jodie Comer and Joe Keery are left to be the serious element.
There was a big push to place this movie as a rare non-sequel, original story, so my first complaint is that it’s not actually all that original. Think Tron mixed with Ready Player One. That said, it plays with its tropes amusingly and highly entertainingly, resulting in a breezy light summer blockbuster that was exactly the kind of frippery I think these continued stressful times call for. Recommended.
Released: 13th August 2021
Viewed: 20th August 2021
Running time: 115 minutes
My rating: 8/10