M. Night Shyamalan is back again with his next trip into the bizarre world of movie making with Old, a horror/thriller with that definitive Shyamalan flavor. M. Night has had some tremendous successes, specifically early in his career with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. He followed those up in the middle with some horrendous films such as The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. The last few years, Shyamalan has righted the ship with The Visit and the Split/Glass films. I no longer look at a film with the name M. Night Shyamalan attached to it as something I desperately want to avoid.
In fact, even with the films that he failed with, you can generally consider Shyamalan’s film, at the very least, original and creative. They may not always be good, but he takes a swing.
So I did approach the new film, Old, with a hopeful thought. I knew the premise of the film from the trailers (which give away too much) that a group of people are stranded on a beach where they are aging rapidly. Unfortunately, I came our of Old feeling underwhelmed. I did not hate the movie, but it seemed to be missing some important parts to it.
The early film spends some time with a family of four, Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps), their 11-year old daughter Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and 6-year old Trent (Nolan River). Guy and Prisca were having problems but wanted to give the kids one more weekend before they told them about whatever the trouble was. So they went to this special resort. The resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) met them and offered them a special trip to a hidden beach. The family took him up on it. They were joined by several other characters who had less character development than our family of four on the trip.
They had to hike through some strange rock formations to reach the beach, but once there, everyone seemed happy. That would not last.
Honestly, the acting performances were not top level. I actually found the young version of Trent, Nolan River, to be cute and charming, especially when he was paired with another young actor named Kailen Jude who played Idlib. Of course, he would eventually age into Alex Wolff and Maddox would age into Thomasin McKenzie. As I said, the acting was not great, but I do not think they were given a great script to work with. The dialogue, in particular, felt really clunky and not realistic. Even Alex Wolff, who I have really enjoyed in past films, did not standout in a positive manner. To be fair, Wolff was trying to act as a 15 year old kid with the mind of a 6 year old. The problem was this was not shown well enough. Trent as Nolan did not act in the manner that Alex did and so we had nothing to compare it with.
Another issue was that the time on the beach did not lead to anything. It was like we saw a laundry list of things happen but they had no lasting implications outside of the ones that led to a specific character death. Those deaths did not factor into the plot much either. It was more like a slasher movie than a psychological thriller.
Ken Jeong was in the movie and he distracted me. It is not his fault, but he was on LOST and I spent ever second of the time he was on screen trying to remember his LOST character’s name (it’s Miles, by the way. I don’t know why I can never remember that). That is my issue, not the movie’s, of course.
There was another scene, which I will not spoil, that has to be considered weirdly icky. I am not saying that it couldn’t have worked, but the execution on it just was missing and there was zero consequences of the situation.
Oh, and there was a famous rapper already on the beach when they arrived. The character’s name was… Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre). I’m not even kidding. It was not played for a joke. I actually liked the character, the actor gave one of the better performances and there were some good things done with him, but Mid-Sized Sedan???
There were some good part as well. Some of the middle section scenes were decent and did build some tension and confusion. There were some good scares, one in particular involving the stunningly beautiful Madrid (Francesca Eastwood) in a cave with Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie.
The ‘Shyamalan ending twist’ was one of the best parts of the movie. I wish that this was shown earlier in the film and that we developed it more because this could have changed the idea of the film.
Old is based on the Swiss graphic novel called Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters and there are some interesting ideas here, but, unfortunately, it is just not tied together well enough to be effective. The film has some moments but it feels as if the negatives outweigh the positives. It is better than those really bad Shyamalan movies, but does not hold up to the best of the director, either.