Let’s get one thing out there right off the bat: M. Night Shyamalan is a good filmmaker. He has over 10 movies under his belt, and even if you hate his movies, he’s mostly been successful at delivering a compelling, sometimes flawed, story. Even “The Happening”, arguably his worst movie, has scenes of terrifying horror that stays with you long after you’ve left the movie. With his newest movie “Old”, Shyamalan shows sparks of what makes him a great horror/suspense director but flounders when he feels compelled to insert a “twist”.
When I first started writing this review, I thought about having a full spoiler filled review. I wanted to talk about how I really did not like the ending and how the movie would be easily be one of the best “body-horror” movies I’ve seen in a long time if the last 30 minutes would be cut out. Instead, I think its better to keep the surprises in the movie. Not that I think knowing the “twist” of the movie will ruin the experience of seeing the movie, but I want to focus on what I really liked about the movie and that contains none of the ending.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock on a beach that makes you old, you should know the premise of this movie simply called “Old”. It’s safe to say that it is not a spoiler for me to say that many of the characters of this movie get old very quickly at a beach in this movie. Shyamalan takes this singular premise and concocts a tightly written cosmic gumbo that would have best been suited for a 30 minute Twilight Zone episode.
The main story follows “Guy” (Gael García Bernal), his wife (Vicky Krieps) and kids on their vacation to this undisclosed resort for a sort of last ditch effort since their marriage is falling apart. The first full day that they are at the resort, they are taken to a remote beach that the manager of the resort says is for “select” customers. The other beach-goers include an older man (played by the criminally underrated Rufus Sewell), his wife (Abbey Lee), his mother and his adolescent daughter. There they meet a rapper who was on the beach from the day before named “Mid-Sized Sedan” (who Guy calls Mr. Sedan). To the movie’s credit, once the main characters hit the beach, the movie keeps your attention for the rest of the movie and does not stop. I’ll skip doing a further recap because it goes into spoiler territory and there are some surprises in the middle of the movie I want people to go in knowing nothing about.
Thinking back on my movie-going experience for this film, I was legitimately captivated for a large chunk of the movie. The beginning of the movie is chock full of very bad dialogue that I know that Night can write better than. My only thought is that he’s writing this stunted dialogue as a way of getting the audiences on edge and uneasy about the world they are in. We start in this world where all the characters are just a little absurd and abnormal that he’s almost preparing us for the insanity that the rest of the movie brings. That or Night just phoned in the first and last act of the movie, which could be true as well.
I’m not going to guarantee that you will like this movie. Even when writing this review, I’m still conflicted about how I feel. Sure, I hated the ending and the dialogue through most of it is something to be desired but there are scenes towards the end of the 2nd act that are so gorgeously shot and beautifully acted by Bernal and Krieps that make consider if I actually love this movie. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are a lot of movies that can’t be put in the good or bad box. Some have such powerful moments but are squandered by weak writing or bad pacing or what have you. At the end of the day, I would recommend seeing this movie just for the middle section (but maybe wait for streaming).
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