Looks like we can go back to disliking M. Night Shyamalan movies again after this one!
Set on an isolated beach where rapid aging becomes an immediate and terrifying killer, Old follows a small group of people during their stay at a tropical resort that’s much more than it initially seems. Focusing more so on the Cappa family and their young children, Trent (Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott) and Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz), it becomes abundantly clear that once these tourists step foot on the the sandy shores of their resort recommended beachfront, they won’t be leaving anytime soon. Inexplicably aging at an increased rate the longer they stay trapped on the beach, each member of the group slowly begins to lose themselves not only physically, but mentally as well. What follows is a terrifying look at what happens when old age is weaponized and how it affects people who aren’t all they’ve cracked up to be, leading to a hellish nightmare that won’t let up.
Sounds like a pretty dope idea for a what should be a pretty dope movie, right? Well, in anyone else’s hands it might have been, but with the wildly brilliant yet frustratingly inconsistent filmmaker that is writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, this one turns out — just like its creator — as a brilliantly frustrating mess. It shouldn’t be this hard to make an idea like this soar, yet somehow this guy has torpedoes the thing until it becomes not only a bore to watch, but a practice in how not to go about making a film like this.
Setting things off on a relatively bad note from the get-go, the dialogue and acting for this film immediately tells the audience all they need to know about how this movie is going to play out. Wrapped in trite, meandering, expositional and just plain dumb scripting, the beginning parts of this film’s plot aren’t anything special, with a cast that’s made to look way worse than they actually are; a problem this films doubles down on the longer everyone stays on the beach.
Once there, however, things fair a bit better for a time as the script and direction feel way more on target for an idea that should absolutely terrify people, but that feeling only lasts for so long considering the script gets in the way of itself at nearly every opportunity it can manage. Feeling like a rough draft of a movie that undoubtedly could have been better with more development time, there’s actually a few stand-out moments sprinkled throughout that give glimpses of the movie this could have been, yet ultimately lets down an idea that initially felt new and unique for something bland and uninspired.
Constantly battling his own counterproductive filmmaking style, Shyamalan at least makes the film looks somewhat nice with cinematography that services its creepy vibe well, but as with everything else in this one, it doesn’t, and can’t, do enough to make the juice worth the squeeze. In all honesty — and as with some of Shyamalan’s other decidedly less successful films — I wanted to like this movie more than I did, but the inconsistency and mishandling of its core concept can’t be overlooked, especially when the final fifteen minutes jumps the shark in a way that feels forced, unearned, and tests the strength of this film’s already strained suspension of disbelief.
Full of stereotypical portrayals of characters that are let down even further by a script that loses its momentum and allure the longer it goes on, Old shouldn’t have been as bad as it was and will undoubtedly go down as one of Shyamalan’s most disappointing and botched films in quite some time. That being said, the hook of this film is so damn good that it accidentally stumbles on some really great stuff here and there, but with Shyamalan at the helm, it never stood a chance. I long for a parallel universe where Ari Aster wrote and directed this one, cuz goddamn that would have been a masterpiece.