Old (MOVIE REVIEW)
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Rufus Sewell
M. Night Shyamalan has slowly manifested into one of those unique filmmakers who you simply never know what you’re going to get out of anymore. Making a name for himself in the 90s with The Sixth Sense, his tendency to make unique conceptual thriller pieces with twists and turns at every corner has remained his biggest double edged sword. His films teeter between the lines of terror and pure absurdity so much that it’s become such a gamble to even bother paying the ticket at the box office nowadays. This hasn’t stopped with his newest film, Old. Based on the Swiss graphic novel, Sandcastle, this movie features an interesting premise, following three families who rapidly age on a beach they can’t escape from as they ponder about their own lives. But in glorious, ironic Shyamalan fashion, where the film will either make or break it for the audience is in the execution, which is just as terrifying as the film makes its ageing concept out to be as it is sometimes just baffling and unintentionally hilarious. What results is an intriguingly polarising thriller which has its fair share of great moments that are pulled together by a strong cast who try their best to work with Shyamalan’s shoddy screenwriting.
Old opens with a married couple going to a tropical resort with their kids for one last vacation. Feeling depressed over certain events that have unfolded, the resort manager suggests to the family that they take the day out on a secluded beach near a nature preserve where they are joined by other families facing their own dilemmas. As they start to relax and unwind, terrifying discoveries are made as the parents start seeing their kids rapidly grow into teenagers, dead bodies are discovered decomposing and any escape from the beach leads to blackouts. With the time ticking by and their bodies slowly deteriorating, the families must work together to escape the beach before they meet their deadly fates.
This movie, to give it credit starting out, has a very solid premise that lends itself well to the horror and thriller genres and even to M. Night Shyamalan’s biggest strengths as a filmmaker. The very concept of growing old before your eyes to the point where your lives are limited to a single day is an inherently scary idea that links to genuine primal fears one may have about their own lives. Shyamalan uses this to his advantage in this movie as he uses this concept to tell a relatively human story which brings a broken family together in a way they never have before. All the people stuck on the beach have their own personal issues both medically and mentally, and when the situation comes around when they have to come to terms with their own mortality as they start rapidly ageing, it leads to character development and heart that can be genuinely well achieved mostly down to the great cast. Many of the leads which range from Gael Garcia Bernal’s loving father to Alex Wolff portraying a 6 year old in a teenage body, all of the cast in Old do a great job with the direction given to sell us on these characters going through what can only be described as a high-stakes nightmare of their lives, and this goes double for the younger cast who have to sell how they are young and naive kids in fully grown bodies.
But while it is easy to commend the cast for just how committed they are to doing this film justice under Shyamalan’s direction, where the film falters is what plagues most of M. Night’s filmography: the screenplay. Old’s script is very flawed and most of it comes from how tonally inconsistent it is. Much of the opening before the family members go to the beach lacks any semblance of subtlety with foreshadowing in the dialogue exchanges feeling blatantly on-the-nose. The film features some genuinely strong moments especially near the end where there is plenty of great poignancy and subtlety within the character interactions, but at the same time it can go to some truly absurd places where it feels like two different films are being played back to back. But despite the tonal issues, so much of Old is genuinely creative and well made simply because Shyamalan’s direction is so strong that sometimes you can look past the shoddy dialogue and occasionally questionable series of events. The film features plenty of great scares purely out of the ageing ideas at play with some of the imagery here teetering along the lines of pure body horror that’s as creepy as it is tragically effective. It’s down to the saddening fate that the characters have to endure that makes so much of Old an effective horror experience from time to time. Not because it jolts the audience with typical scary tropes but because the underlying primal fear of rapid ageing makes the audience naturally anxious about where the characters end up before the credits roll. But like any Shyamalan film, this film will either make or break most audience members' opinions with yet another trademark twist ending that recontextualizes so much of the movie’s prior events but can come across as so borderline ridiculous and contrived in many other ways that some will either find it satisfying or baffling. There’s rarely any middle ground with twist endings in M. Night Shyamalan films anymore, so most audience members will just have to make up their own opinions on the matter.
Old is one of the most fascinatingly polarising films to ever come from M. Night Shyamalan. This film features many great elements that are brought to life amazingly by a strong cast and impeccable direction, but so much of the screenplay takes the story in such absurdist directions that will either make or break it for audiences going in. This makes Old a film that’s weirdly enough quite easy to recommend because it is so captivating in how controversial the film has become not too long since its debut that it will be discussed long after its initial theatrical run like many other Shyamalan movies. Regardless of what audiences will make of his latest trip, Old features plenty of anxiety-inducing ideas and pure filmmaking creativity that will be enough to make for great critical debates for years to come.
FINAL RATING:- 5/10 (DEBATABLE)