An exploration into the world of Free Guy
Once in a while a movie comes along that transforms the way you see the world. Movies like The Matrix, Braveheart, Dune and others allow us to dream, to enter into life with all that we are, to be more than we ever thought possible. I am a huge movie buff, and although my movie watching marathons have gone the way of the dodo bird since I got married and had kids, I still have the opportunity to sneak in a movie once in a while.
Recently, I had the privilege of watching Free Guy staring Ryan Reynolds (of Deadpool fame). The movie was near completion in 2019, but delayed for release until 2021. While the movie genuinely hilarious, with very crisp writing, amazing special effects, brilliant videography, and a soundtrack that is nearly flawless, Free Guy has so many layers to it that I have taken to studying this movie as an icon into our culture.
I am writing a full review & reflection about Free Guy, so if you haven’t watched the movie yet and you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now. However, because this film has such depth, this won’t spoil your viewing time, but hopefully will only help draw out the deeper meaning.
One warning: We don’t live in video game. There's no do over. We only have only shot at this.We’re called to live in the real world. We’re not to go meta (sorry Book of Faces!). The world was created for us to live in, not to avoid. And our bodies are not a mistake, to be human is good (sorry Transhumanism movement!). It is through the physical world that we encounter reality. So after reading this review, get outside and get some fresh air!
Welcome to Free City
On the surface, Free Guy is about Guy (played by Reynolds) who lives in Free City. “My name is guy...and I live in Paradise.”
Everyday, Guy wakes up to Mariah Carry’s “Fantasy”, greets his pet gold fish named Goldie, dresses in the same blue shirt and khaki pants, and goes to work at the bank with his best friend Buddy (played by Lil Rel Howery), who is a security guard.
What Guy doesn’t realize is that his world – Free City – is one giant, violent video game. Everyday, the bank is held up by robbers. In fact, Free City is filled with all kinds of horrific things that happen.
There are two types of people who live in Free City. The first type are ordinary citizens, non-playable characters, of which Guy is one of them. Violence is so commonplace that the citizens have settled believing this is just what life is like. They have accepted the reality that is presented to them.
The second type of people are the Sunglass people. According to Guy, these are the “heroes with a devil-may care attitude, and they run this town.” In truth, these are players in a Role-playing Game (RPG), real-life people living in the real world whose mission is to commit acts of violence so they can level up.
Guy is pretty content with his life, waking up smiling, greeting Goldie, drinking a hot cup of coffee – medium, creme, two sugars – and getting beers on the beach with Buddy after work. But something happens that cuts him to the core: He encounters an old married couple who he serves at the bank. Something stirs in His heart – an ache – which he shares with Buddy: “I’ve been looking for her forever, but maybe it’s just not meant to be.” We come to discover that there’s a woman in his heart and head, taking up space, she won’t move out, and Guy doesn’t want her to. Buddy tries to tell him to move on, because “she’s just a fantasy.”
Maybe you’ve felt like Guy, too – you have a longing in your head and heart that just won’t quit, but everything you seem to encounter in life tells you to give up on your dream. Take it from Guy – don’t give up on your dream.
For Guy, his dream becomes a reality, for as he’s walking down the street with Buddy, a woman comes sauntering by him singing a song. But it’s not just any song...it’s Mariah Carry’s Fantasy...the song he wakes up to every morning! Guy’s fantasy girl IS a reality and he can’t believe it! “That’s her...that’s my dream girl Buddy!”
Learning how to see
But there’s one problem – she’s wearing sunglasses. Guy doesn’t let that stop him, because love has been awakened, sung by the woman he’s been dreaming about. The next time someone comes into the bank, Guy musters up his courage, takes the shades off of the would-be bank robber, walks outside, puts them on, and...his whole world changes!
Things he never saw before, nor even thought could possibly exist, are before his eyes. He sees floating words, 1st aid packs, etc., and this blows his mind, leading him to believe that he’s high. As Guy becomes acclimated to wearing glasses, he starts seeing the world as it really is, as well as seeing things that seemingly weren’t there before.
He shares this experience with Buddy:
“What if I could tell you that your life could be more? Your life could be fuller? That you’re free to make your own decisions, your own choices?...These puppies [the glasses] can change your life, and they’re going to change yours...Life doesn’t have to be something that just happens to us. Put on the glasses and you’re going to see. You’re going to see.”
What kind of glass are you seeing the world with? Are you casting suspicion upon others, doubting their own goodness and worth, because this is what you feel inside yourself? Or do you strive to see the good that is in every person, even those you don’t agree with on a variety of topics?
This is what faith allows us to do: it allows us to see things that we thought weren’t there before. As Christians, we believe in the visible and the invisible, in both man and angels, in matter and grace. When we can perceive the invisible through the physical, we get a very real glimpse of God Almighty. And this is what we’re all really looking for.
As the movie progresses, he meets up again with the love of his life, learning her name – Molotovgirl (played by Jodie Comer). She lets him know that if he wants to hang with her, he has to skill up. Isn’t this what’s in the heart of every man and woman? Her femininity is what draws him out, inspiring him to be a better man, and it is women upholding her dignity and worth, that cause real men to step up.
There’s one problem with Molotovgirl’s request: Guy can only earn experience points by doing violent actions. Guy responds, “I never hurt innocent people”. Moltovgirl is surprised by this, thinks for a moment, and says that he “could rack experience points up by being a good guy.” “Like a hero!” responds Guy. She mocks him, but Guy is resolved to do the right thing in the right way.
And it pays off...big time! As he begins to do random acts of kindness, Guy’s experience point level begins to increase. It is love that motivates him to do these actions, unlike the motivation of the Sunglass people who are simply there to kill and blow stuff up. Just as when we start consistently to do good work, many of the Sunglass people begin to take notice of Guy, calling him “Blue Shirt Guy,” setting off a global-revolution of celebrity. Maybe there is more to life than causing mayhem and havoc….
As Guy is going around Free City, leveling up, just by being who he is he begins to inspire others to not live in fear, but to go live their life. We see this:
*In his shop where he gets his coffee, where he inspires the Barista to not just make regular coffee, but a cappuccino (“I want to make a ******* difference!”)
*In his encounter with the Bombshell who has been eye candy for men forever, Guy looks her in the eye and proclaims, “You can do so much better.” She responds, “Maybe I don’t have to be with any guy…” Then...she goes onto write a memoir about the subjects that are important in her life.
*His friend Buddy was caked in fear, not even being willing to try on the sunglasses when Guy offered them to him. Yet as he spends more time with Blue Shirt Guy, he begins to grow in confidence, so much so that he steps up to help him in going on dangerous missions. Buddy moves from “People with sunglasses don’t talk to people like us” to “I’ve been scared my whole **** life. I’m not scared anymore...It’s been the best day of my life. Go show them that we matter!”
Guy inspires countless others to be more, to step up into believing their life can be fulfilling. And we are called to do the same. Our virtuous example changes things. The meaning of our life, and what gives meaning to life itself, is to make a sincere gift of self. This is why you were created, and if you follow this deepest programming from the Creator, you fulfill reason for your being and existence (cf. TOB 15:1)
The plot thickens
What we come to discover is that Molotovgirl is actually Millie Musk, a young woman in the real world who invented a video game with her friend, Walter “Keys” McKeys (played by Joe Keery of Stranger Things fame). The video game they designed together is a non-player game instead of doing insanely violent actions of players in Free City, AIs – Artificial Intelligences – interact freely in very creative ways, such as riding minotaurs. And the players who would normally blow stuff up spend their time just watching AIs develop, grow and simply be.
The problem for Keys and Millie is their original code was been hijacked – plagiarized – by the “creator” of Free City Antwan (played by the uber-talented, hard-to-hate Taika Waititi), a power-driven megalomaniac. His main goal in life is to make as much money as possible, and to do this he plays on the base instincts of an unsuspecting public.
Molotovgirl goes on a dangerous mission at a safe house to recover the key piece of evidence that will prove Antwan is a thief. The mission goes sideways, and just as it looks as though she is doomed, Blue Shirt Guy busts in and saves the day!
Guy and Moltovgirl head to Harbor Park to ride on the swings and eat bubblegum flavored ice cream, of which she is shocked that Guy likes this flavor, for she thought she was the only one. Guy tells her that he really wants to kiss her, of which she allows him, and he exclaims, “That was SO much better than ice cream!”
Guy follows this up with telling Molotovgirl that he loves her. She responds saying, “you only think you love me because it’s in your programming.” What is an attempt at a polite decline of the opening of his heart is actually a prophesy that would come true later on.
What is real?
As in real life when we’re trying to do good, we are often met with resistance. The same is true for our blue shirt hero.
The creator of the game Free City is Antwan (played by the uber-talented, hard to hate Taika Waititi), a power-driven megalomaniac can’t stand this Blue Shirt “Do Gooder.” He is preparing for a sequel to Free City that will in effect destroy the original. Millie and Keys know that Antwan has stolen their code, but they don’t have the proof...yet.
Millie decides he needs to tell Guy the truth about His world and who he really is. In being red-pilled that he is simply a background video game character, Guy doesn’t take it very well:
Guy: “I’m fake. The entire world is fake? I’m just an idiot in the background….my whole life, I felt there had to be something more. And then I saw you. And I knew I was right. I was right! And for a second I felt amazing…You’re real, and I’m what? I’m what?
Millie: “You’re not…” [silence]
Guy: “I may not be real, but for a second there, I felt pretty alive.”
Unlike Goldie, his pet goldfish, Guy is not content to be merely observed in the background of a digital fish tank. He wants to interact with life, to make other’s days great, to make a difference.
Imagine being told that your whole world is not real, that you’re not real, nor are any of your experiences. You would probably shout out something like Guy: “It’s all a lie! Don’t you get it. None of it matters! It’s fake! It’s all fake!” You would rightly be angry, because to paraphrase St. Augustine, “there are millions of people who will lie to others, but no one wants to be lied to.” Why?
Because we want to know what is real, because we all thirst for meaning and value. And when the world we’ve been living in – or the one we’ve constructed in our mind gets questioned – this causes us to question reality itself. Unlike Guy, we are real, flesh and blood, created in the image of God, unique and unrepeatable as beloved sons and daughters of God, to love and be loved, to make heaven real here on earth.
In his hopelessness, Guy visits with his gregarious friend Buddy and cries out from the depths of his heart:
Guy: “What if you found out you weren’t real?”
Buddy: “So what if I’m not real? I’m sitting here with my best friend trying to help him get through a tough time. Even if I’m not real, this moment is real. Right here, right now. What’s more real than a person trying to help a person they love. If that’s not real, I don’t know what is.”
Guy realizes that even if his life is fake, his love for Millie is real. He decides to sacrifice for her, and succeeds in the same mission she previously failed (with a hilarious cameo from Channing Tatem). Guy gives Millie the evidence she needs – a still image of an island, the original island that Keys and her created – the proof that the original world still exists, now covered over by the demonic world of Free City.
And just when we think the story is about to wrap up cleanly, Antwan finds that Millie has discovered the truth of his theft. Like a diabolical demon about to be cast out from his illegal, he must suppress the Truth at all costs. He orders the entire game to be rebooted, which causes Millie to lose the evidence altogether.
But hope is not lost…
Discovering our destiny
When the game reboots, everything goes back to it’s original programmed settings, including Guy. When Molotovgirl pull him aside on the street, Guy has no memory of her. She does the one thing she knows will work: She kisses him. And with this kiss, he remembers EVERYTHING. He remembers that the original programming for the original game is found not just in his apartment, but within himself.
Like Guy, it is love that reawakens us to a deeper reality, that at root life is not about acquiring money, experience points, and it certainly is not about getting ahead at the expense of others’ dignity and worth. No matter what lies the evil one throws at us, no matter how much he tries to plagiarize God’s original plan for our lives & no matter how far from our true selves we live, if we are honest and humble we can discover a path to genuine goodness, love, truth, goodness & unity.
When we set our face like flint (cf. Isaiah 50:7) to begin pursuing God’s will for our lives, the evil one often throws everything in our way in an attempt to stop us. Antoine knows he can’t have Guy escape, so he unleashes his greatest terror ever: Dude – a massive, muscular copy of Guy who has uncompleted programming (“Catchphrase!”). He has been unleashed with one mission: Destroy Guy.
At the climax of his battle, of essentially fighting with his darkest self, Dude has pinned Guy on the ground, and begins to press with all his might on his chest, threatening to kill him by destroying his heart. Guy is desperately looking through the items he has stored to defend himself, and in an act of desperation, he gets an epiphany: He puts the glasses on Dude, of which he is stunned.
He starts seeing the world as it really is, and in waking up to reality, it changes him. Instead of wanting to destroy, he learns to connect. And all of this was made possible because Guy risked to show his enemy a new way to see. In doing so, he gains his own life and a new friend.
Soon afterward, Guy makes it to the Island, something he had to believe it, visualize it, and pursue it with everything he is. It is a place where the AIs are truly FREE to be, to create, to grow. Free Guy truly makes others FREE. Like Guy, it is love – the love that comes from others and the love of God poured into our hearts – that opens a path for us to discover our heart’s deepest desire – Heaven. This is where every tear will be wiped away and death shall be no more (cf. Rev 21:4), where we will truly be free to live eternally as the person we were created to be. May we hold out hope for our ultimate destiny, for it is more real than vision this world presents.
Awakening to love
The biggest layer to Free Guy is what happens with the Creators of the game. In discussing with Millie about why Guy is different from all the other NPCs, Keys states:
“He comes to life. Why?...One of the guys I created and nicknamed Lovehorn. He was someone who was designed to never meet the right person. It was the essentially the building blocks of the character. But he never stopped hoping that he would meet “the girl of his dreams.
So I had to base this girl off of someone, and who was better than the person that I was next to everyday? You. But then he meets you in Free City, and then can never be the same...You changed his code Mille, and I think you can do it again. You brought him to life. And he is alive because you were the one person who could do this.
It is love that brings us alive. It is love that moves us to do crazy feats, to dare the impossible, to believe that our lives can be more, that we have worth and value, to show others that they matter. This is what happened to Guy, and love is the calling of every human being.
Millie is oblivious to how Keys exactly values her, until Guy speaks this lightning bolt:
Guy: “I love you Millie. Maybe that’s just my programming talking, but guess what? Someone wrote that programming. I’m just a love letter to you. Somewhere out there is the author.”
Millie wakes up to the reality that she is called to much more than simply creating a game where others just watch AI characters develop and grow. No, she was called into love with Keys, to co-create not simply a video game, but their own life, to develop and grow.
And it is the same with us. The author of our story is not some evil demon hell-bent on our destruction and misery; no, He is the Creator of all, God the Father, who desires an intimate relationship with you, for He knows the plans he has for you, to prosper you and not harm you. (cf. Jer 29:11). Therefore, entrust your life to Him, for He wants to give you a future and a hope, and a love that never ends.
Steve Pokorny is the Founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-to-one mentoring system designed to break the power of pornified images. His book, Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from the Pornified Culture, is available now.