Old Movie Review
In M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, a group of vacationers become trapped on a beach that ages them by a year every 30 minutes. For those of us watching, it feels like a slow death.
Bold in concept, questionable in execution, and downright lame in conclusion, Old is serviceably entertaining thanks to the core story and its unpredictable nature. But it’s also damn frustrating in almost every other way.
After the first trailer dropped I was intrigued to see what Shyamalan would do with this story; while he can be hit or miss, the director has shown he can still deliver a satisfying thriller from time to time, and land a few curveballs along the way. He has always been a director focused on the end game, and specifically the ending, even if he has shied away from the big twists that made him a household name two decades ago.
With Old, however, he clearly envisioned the idea of the beach and then jerry rigged an ending later on… because boy does the final 20 minutes of Old suck the life out of you.
At its core, Old is a pretty dark movie—it’s about children becoming adults and then even older, completely missing out on all the things that makes that progression enjoyable, or at least educational, in reality. But Shyamalan isn’t at all the right director for a film like this; it could have gone in many directions—playing up the body horror, ratcheting up the intensity, diving deep into the psyches of the film’s victims—but Shyamalan takes an “on the nose” approach that works for a while but ultimately fails him.
Despite starting a largely recognizable and respectable cast, the acting is across the board not very good. And the acting isn’t good because the screenplay isn’t very good. We are not talking The Happening-level bad by any means, but each character is so mapped out and deliberate Shyamalan gives his actors almost no room to flex their muscles.
It’s the third act, though, that really kills the film. Old was always going to be about the ending, and for a while, despite the questionable dialogue and ho-hum decisions the characters make, the question of “Will Shyamalan pull it off?” compels you forward. Onward. Even eager to see how it all comes together.
But Shyamalan doesn’t pull it off, making all the awkward characters, weird writing, and TV-grade directorial choices (seriously, how was this guy at one time called “the next Spielberg”?) not at all worth it.
There is a good movie to be found buried deep in the sand here—a tighter story, delivered with more intensity and urgency (seriously, two of the main characters stop to make a sand castle with hours left to live), and a willingness to embrace the darkness, or at least address the ramifications of, the core concept—but such a film remains out of Shyamalan’s grasp, beyond his capabilities as a filmmaker.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.