PG Score: 6.5/10
Old was released in theaters on 7/23/21
Powered by its thought-provoking premise, Old ventures in some interesting directions but is tripped up by silly dialogue and an occasionally shaky narrative. Despite the unbalanced execution, Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and Split) has plenty of riveting tricks up his sleeve to capture viewers’ attention.
Based on the 2010 graphic novel Sandcastle, written by Pierre Oscar Lévy and drawn by Frederik Peeters, the twist-happy filmmaker’s latest creation centers on a hidden beach that somehow causes all those who step foot on it to age rapidly.
Shyamalan keeps his cards close to his chest as the mystery begins to unfold. Audience engagement is a significant highlight as Old encourages speculation as more information is gradually revealed. Small clues are offered sparingly, which prompt viewers to hypothesize the reasoning behind the central phenomenon. The movie revels in the fact that there are no easy answers, and the mastermind at the helm demonstrates great patience in letting the intrigue build. Clever camerawork is another prominent factor in effectively presenting each piece of the puzzle. Skilled panning, careful framing, and intentionally obscure shots comprise the excellent work from Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis.
Plenty of Twists
The film continually raises the stakes as it pushes towards unveiling its secrets. Each time it adds a new layer or twist, it runs the risk of going completely off the tracks. While it does come dangerously close more than once, Shyamalan manages to keep the thrills relatively coherent. The director’s willingness to go the daring route at every turn is on full display, and the result is a double-edged sword.
For obvious reasons, enjoyment is dependent on a large dose of suspension of disbelief. However, that leeway only goes so far, and there are numerous instances when ridiculous on-screen events occur for the sole purpose of advancing the plot. Characters make extremely foolish decisions that are entirely incongruous with the personalities they have previously exhibited. Given the extreme circumstances, some measure of uncharacteristic behavior is understandable, but there are times when that threshold is exceeded three times over. While these laughable scenes do not totally derail Old, they absolutely detract from its intensity.
To compound the issue, some of the writing is subpar and leads to absurd dialogue. However comical these exchanges may be, they damage the rising tension and feel out of place. Despite the characters’ professions ranging from doctors to actuaries, their logic and verbiage are often severely unintelligent. These contradictions make for a somewhat uneven viewing experience.
The cast is packed with familiar names including Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Eliza Scanlen. Everyone does well enough in their respective roles, but nobody really stands out. This is less about the actual performances and more about the material they are given to work with. Many of the lines are awkward and, through no fault of their own, negatively impact the actors’ portrayals. As in many of his prior films, Shyamalan does have a cameo, but it overstays its welcome this time around. Acting is clearly not his forte, and his increased screen time would have been better off in the hands of a more talented performer.
M. Night Does Just Enough
Contrived plot points and inconsistent writing add some wrinkles to his newest thriller, but M. Night Shyamalan’s fearless style is sufficient reason to give Old a chance...regardless of your age.