Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Love him or hate him, there is no denying the force that the name M. Night Shyamalan's name brings with it. Whether it's the brilliant debut of SIXTH SENSE or superhero masterpiece UNBREAKABLE or even his more perturbed ventures like THE HAPPENING and THE VILLAGE, there is one director that can not be accused of falling stale to the formula.
OLD sees him take on another adaptation (we won't talk about THE LAST AIRBENDER) as a group of tourists are taken to an isolated beach and for anyone who has an ounce of knowledge will know, the band of strangers begin to age far quicker than expected as each hour becomes 2 years causing a fight for survival against an extremely limited amount of time.
Like any good horror movie, the film sets the scene pretty quickly while introducing all of the characters and their own demons begin to surface soon after arriving on the island, and with all of Shyamalan's ventures, there's the steady expectation that the rug will be pulled from under their feet with a shock reveal, something that arrives but by the time it does, it becomes apparent it was night the right rug and as such there's little effect to hit the audience who at this point will already be numb.
With a cast including Thomasin McKenzie (who gave an award winning performance with LAST NIGHT IN SOHO) and the usually interesting Rufus Sewell, even they struggle to save what becomes nothing more than a soap opera that gives a reminder of why the likes of EL DORADO failed to keep an audience. While the film was made during Covid, each of the characters give a devoid, almost STEPFORD WIFE-type reading and the lack of emotion feels like it came directly from Shyamalan's awkward persona, ironically here as a cameo as the most intriguing person on the island. There's something really limiting in the films production, the lack of actually seeing anything when it happens, the moving camera to switch actors and the dialogue delivered straight from the page, for a big screen release, and from a seasoned director, there's just something a little amateur about OLD that is distracting.
There are plenty of interesting themes about time and illness here but none ever really expanded other than to show a grizzly end. One calcium afflicted victim is horrific to watch and even with the presence of enhanced time becomes an abstract moment of horror in an otherwise grounded mystery. One of the families gives a really heart-breaking finale and as the time capsule collapses around them, and the ailments that come with it.
The films biggest flaw is its inability to answer the right questions leaving many more questions into the end credits. Unlike THE SIXTH SENSE or UNBREAKABLE, the main point of OLD is nothing more than a McGuffin that frankly gets no explanation and instead gives another twist that nobody asked for. If the point of the islands being was better explained then maybe the magic trick could have been better executed but here it feels as though it's 90 minutes of waiting for an answer that never comes to fruition. OLD had a lot of potential but it seems that some gimmicks have no grounded rationale and as such raise the suspension of disbelief to a disbelief of the material it's moving forward. A moment of touching warmth between an aging couple moments from death that really beg that the source material were more honed on than a plot twist that is never really needed. Perhaps more a curse behind the directors name than of the story that is at the heart of a film that even changes its title to the focal point of age.
Let's hope that Shyamalan can go to the island himself to speed up a truly great idea that he deserves right now but as ever, OLD remain a talking point, even if for the "what if's" than the film itself.