A family on a tropical holiday discovers that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day.
There’s something quite exciting about a new M. Night Shyamalan movie – for all his faults and failures of recent years, he’s one of the few directors who can genuinely surprise you and going into any of his movies (should you wisely avoid any initial reports) is to not know whether you’re about to see something truly great or something truly awful. It’d be fair to say that Shyamalan’s output of late has tended to the latter (although ‘Split’ and ‘Glass’ were both decent), but his first three hits (‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Signs’ and ‘Unbreakable’) showed how good his work can be when he can find the execution to match the great ideas. Alas ‘Old’ is a typical M. Night Shyamalan movie in that it has a fascinating premise, a compelling cast (on paper), but dreadful execution mainly attributable to the screenplay.
Let’s start with this premise then. We begin at a resort where several families have arrived on holiday – I won’t name them all as there’s too many to list, something Shyamalan realises about half way through when he gets bored of the bloated ensemble and starts killing them off in increasingly ridiculous ways. On the first day of their holiday these families all end up on a remote, seemingly idyllic beach, only to discover that they seem to be ageing at an alarming rate, with 6 year olds becoming 11 year olds in a couple of hours, and tumours growing rapidly. To make matters worse they are unable to exit the beach via the cave they entered from, and a dangerous ocean and steep rocks makes exit by any other means nigh on impossible. This is when ‘Old’ hits its sweet spot of nonsense as the characters try to figure out what’s happening to them and mostly waste time instead of trying to escape. I do wonder if Shyamalan has ever heard people speak because his take on dialogue is quite fascinating and there are plenty of unintentional comical moments, not least when the dying starts as previously mentioned.
So bad it’s good is worn almost as a badge by many but I do genuinely believe Shyamalan thinks he’s making quality movies, and there’s something endearing about that enthusiasm – like a modern day Ed Wood if you will. The key difference is Wood had bad ideas and bad execution whereas Shyamalan at least has good ideas and directs well, but he could do himself a favour and hire a screenwriter to turn the ideas into something that does justice to the ideas.
I can’t say I disliked ‘Old’ because it made me a laugh a lot (unintentionally) and the cheesy, awkward dialogue, plot developments, and terrible acting (in many cases from performers I like such as Rufus Sewell and Gael Garcia Bernal) coalesced into something that held my attention, but this ain’t a good movie and it’s reminiscent of those mid-2000s disasters such as ‘The Village’ or ‘The Happening’. You won’t have a bad time watching ‘Old’ though and I did feel I got my money’s worth!
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Emun Elliott, Thomasin McKenzie, Embeth Davidtz, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Kathleen Chalfant, Gustaf Hammarsten, Francesca Eastwood, Matthew Shear and M. Night Shyamalan