Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.
There's something special about Old. No, it's not a standout nor is it the greatest Shyamalan film ever. What makes it special is that it felt like Shyamalan was returning to his roots, finding simple things that scare us and use that to slowly unnerve us until the final moments. He seemingly had his craft mastered early in his career with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs; but, he seemed to lose his way for a few years with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth. Say what you will about The Visit or Glass, Shyamalan is finally hitting his stride again with his new film Old.
The film follows two families and a couple who are visiting a resort to relax and destress from life. The resort promises them a private beach day so, unwittingly, they agree to go. Pretty soon, they discover that something's not right. The kids grow older, graduating from 6 years old to 11 years old in just 3 hours. Any attempt to escape the way they came in results in a splitting headache and passing out just to wake up on the beach. One member of the group notices cameras on the cliffs. Who's watching them? And why are they aging so quickly? And how do they escape?
Old is one of those films that starts off nice and calm and slowly devolves into mysterious suspenseful madness. There were moments that gave me Cure for Wellness vibes, making you suspect and distrust literally everyone. I can't say that this film has a classic Shyamalan twist to it because everything had a linear progression to it. There was no "it was him all along!" moment. The film was well-paced and well-made, but I did have one issue with it: the dialogue. For a man who wrote The Sixth Sense and the Unbreakable trilogy, you'd thing a seasoned director/writer such as M. Night Shyamalan could compose a brilliant screenplay, but the dialogue in the first half of this film was just bad. For instance, the doctor (who either had alzheimer's or schizophrenia, it was never really clear which he had) attacked a man and there was a decently long pause before someone yelled "he's got a knife!". Appreciate that update, Captain Obvious. Then there's the occasional shakiness that comes with first-time jobs - but that's the kicker, all of these people, save for the kids, have been acting for years! The kids put on better performances than the professionals did! Thankfully, though, that only occurred throughout the first half of the film. The second half was far better and much more believable, especially when the doctor's mental state truly devolves.
Rufus Sewell took the spotlight when his character's mental disorder took hold of his mind once and for all. His blank stares at the world around him, his shuffling down the beach in a manic state, his growing distrust of everyone around him - his performance was fascinating to witness unfold.
The ability for the young actors to keep a sense of innocence about them despite their growing bodies was brilliant as well. It was a wonderful choice by Shyamalan to keep in tact their child-like nature to portray that they're aging far more rapidly than their brains are learning.
Also, thank you, Mr. Shyamalan for giving the dog a peaceful, off-screen death. Too many horrors love to showcase animals dying in horrendous and scary ways but the fact that the dog just dies of age and isn't seen doing so was very kind on his part. See? The entire horror genre needs to take notes here. You don't need to gross out the audience, just unsettle them. That's how you make a true suspense/horror film work.
In conclusion, I was more satisfied with the film than I was unsatisfied. It needed a little more fine tuning but it was overall a good entry into Shyamalan's career and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. I give Old a 3 out of 4.
© 2021 Nathan Jasper