They say that the only things in life that are inescapable are taxes and death. Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan uses that certainty of death, and the uncertainty of time, to weave a unique and twisted tale focused on the most basic of fears: the fear of the impending end and the inability to stop it. Time is precious. Time is fleeting. That’s the central idea in this story that finds a mix of children and adults trapped on a mysterious secluded beach where time moves quickly and people age rapidly. It’s an intriguing and ambitious idea. Unfortunately, Shyamalan’s handling of the material misses the mark entirely.
As the credits rolled and I stood to leave the theater following the movie, I over heard a young girl turn to her father and say, “That was ridiculous.” That one word spoken by a pre-teen child is perhaps the best word to sum up this movie. It’s ridiculous. Old does its best to build suspense; unfortunately, there is none to be found. Instead, the film comes across as amusingly absurd, obnoxious, and sometimes, a combination of both.
The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the beautiful scenery and the breathtaking cinematography courtesy of Mike Gioulakis. Gioulakis has a knack for creating visuals that compliment strange and complex stories, as we’ve seen with films like It Follows, Us, Under the Silver Lake and the vastly superior Shyamalan film Split. The camera is frequently in motion, sliding from side to side or spinning in place within a scene and looping back to where it started. It creates a feeling of disorientation and lack of control that would have been best put to use in a better film.
Alex Wolff (Hereditary) and Thomaskin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) lead the cast as a brother and sister aging from young children to young adults in a matter of hours. It’s a difficult role to play, balancing the mannerisms and speaking habits of a younger child while also trying to be taken seriously. And while they each give a respectable performance, the result is often hit or miss.
Old thinks that it is smarter than it really is. It certainly thinks it’s smarter than its audience. As a result, the film is fueled by exposition. Each character painstakingly explains exactly what is occurring. They reach absurd and outlandish conclusions, and then immediately explain how they came to such a conclusion. With Old, Shyamalan loses what was so great about his earlier works: the ability for viewers to guess, speculate and theorize about what’s going on. Instead, the film seems rushed to its conclusion, taking you along for the ride without really letting you be a part of the journey.
There is no denying that M. Night Shyamalan is a unique filmmaker. Not only in his style and vision, but in his delivery and execution, as well. With a mixed filmography consisting of masterpieces and total duds under his belt, he truly is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Old certainly isn’t his worst film (that dis/honor likely goes to The Last Airbender), however, it surely finds itself in the lower half, nestled comfortably among The Lady in the Water and The Happening. 5.5/10