Old - review (contains spoilers)
A thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age, reducing their entire lives into a single day...
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest mind-bending, twisty-turny effort Old, fails to live up to the best of his filmography. Perhaps he’s unfairly labelled as the twist guy, but we don’t get to choose our monikers in this life. His career has justifiably been built upon an ability to pull the rug out from under the audience, which perhaps has left us a little jaded over the years.Twists and turns are always appreciated, but they must be in service of the plot or character development. Sadly here the inevitable reveal didn’t really serve either.
Old primarily takes place on a idyllic beach, where a group of strangers are experiencing a phenomenon of accelerated ageing. I’ll be frank, there’s an intriguing kernel of a story at the heart of Old, it’s just never fully realized. The exposition is clunky at best, wasting too much time having characters wrestling with the concepts of the situation they’re stuck in. It’s as if the film never quite knew what tone it was striving for. It swings wildly from psychological thriller to horror with a big ladle of family drama thrown in for good measure.
Ultimately it's revealed that the beach forms part of a scientific experiment, where new drugs are tested on unknowing subjects. The ageing effects of the beach allows for rapid research to be done, which would arguably benefits all humankind. Frustratingly this concept is dealt with in the closing minutes of the film, instead of being truly fleshed out as the moral and ethical dilemma that it is. The tension between servicing the greater good versus causing individual suffering is something I would've loved to see Shyamalan tackle. As it stands, the film opts for a paint-by-numbers approach, which is unfortunate.
Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) is the standout performer, although no one from the cast particularly dazzled to be fair. Which is a shame given the cast included the likes of Rufus Sewell, Vicky Krieps and Gael García Bernal. For the most part I felt as though their natural charms were squandered under the weight of the film’s abstract premise.
I can't recommend you race out to catch this one. For M. Night Shyamalan fans you might get a few thrills from the old master, but for everyone else, there's just too many better films demanding of your time and attention nowadays. Although Old didn't really land for me, I’ll take M. Night out there swinging for the fences any day. His misses are some times as interesting as the hits.