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Old Review

July 23, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Old Trailer Image Credit: Universal Pictures
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Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan; Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters
Runtime: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language

Gael García Bernal – Guy
Vicky Krieps – Prisca
Rufus Sewell – Charles
Alexa Swinton – Maddox
Nolan River – Trent
Ken Leung – Jarin
Nikki Amuka-Bird – Patricia
Abbey Lee – Chrystal
Aaron Pierre – Mid-Sized Sedan
Kathleen Chalfant – Agnes
Gustaf Hammarsten – Resort Manager
Francesca Eastwood – Madrid

Coming off the back-to-back success of Split and Glass, it looked like filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan had finally turned things around after a string of flops. With Old, Shyamalan returns to a suspenseful horror-thriller premise. While the movie is certainly unnerving and unsettling at times, the frights and suspense are usually undone by clunky, almost listless acting, weak dialogue and a script that can’t keep its internal logic straight.

The story follows a seemingly happy family. Parents Guy (García Bernal) and Prisca (Krieps) are taking their kids, Maddox (Swinton) and Trent (River), on a tropical vacation. It appears to be the family’s last outing together before the dissolution of Guy and Prisca’s struggling marriage. While something appears to be off about the opulent resort, along with a common thread that a lot of the guests share, the family tries to enjoy themselves before reality comes calling.

After they arrive, the resort’s manager (Hammarsten) has the family and several other guests transported for an outing to an isolated cove away from the resort. Unfortunately, they soon realize they’ve been trapped in some sort of awful, sick joke. The cove takes a grave effect on those trapped within its oppressive rocky formations. Anyone inside the cove begins aging rapidly at an accelerated rate of two years per hour. For the adults, less than a day in the cove means certain death, and escape appears to be all but impossible.

Once the family is trapped in the cove, Old tends to find more of its footing. In the first act, the setup and introduction of the central characters are rather clunky. Case in point, the introduction of nurse Jarin (Leung) and his wife, Patricia (Amuka-Bird). The film introduces those characters after Patricia collapses due to an epileptic seizure. Leung’s stilted delivery made the character look bored and uninterested that his wife was having a seizure. The other adult actors’ performances didn’t fare much better. The slow burn to the cove’s secret, starting with the reaction of vacationing rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Pierre), appeared to try way too hard to be eerie and grandiose. Instead, it makes some of the early scenes come off as comically melodramatic and silly.

Once the main action ensues and the hotel guests realize they are trapped in this deathly cove with no means of escape, the tension and suspense ramp up. This is where Old works well, as parents Prisca and Guy view their children rapidly aging before their eyes. From the medical knowledge Jarin and stranded doctor Charles (Sewell) put together, they can somewhat theorize the rate at which they are aging. However, the rate at which time occurs in this cove also affects existing medical ailments, such as Prisca’s recently diagnosed benign tumor.

Even at a PG-13 rating, Shyamalan manages to put together some shocking kills and disturbing imagery. The horror and shock of such a nightmarish premise work, but the heavy-handed themes of familial bonds are less so. In other matters, the rapid onset of aging caused by the cove is fairly inconsistent throughout the movie. The narrative establishes a Mid-Sized Sedan arriving at the cove much earlier than the rest of the group … seemingly hours before. Yet even as a young adult in his prime, he and some of the other adults never appear to visibly age.

The big secret behind the cove is likely easily spotted by many. The film practically telegraphs it early on, and it’s not very subtle. The implications of the cove’s secret are somewhat hard to swallow with the reasoning the film offers, and that’s where Old suffers more.

The strongest attribute for Old is its lavish cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, who previously worked on Us and Glass. Gioulakis and Shyamalan do stage some unconventional shots that keep the horrifying reveal just out of frame or obscured, which does add to the overall suspense. That said, the depiction of an emergency surgical procedure on Prisca to deal with her rapidly growing tumor is a bit confusing.

Old is far from a great film, but it has its moments. It’s not as embarrassing as some of Shyamalan’s later efforts, but it fails to reach the heights of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, when Shyamalan’s talents truly peaked.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
As a suspenseful horror movie, Old isn't a complete disaster. The main plot and premise are fairly suspenseful, and Shyamalan does deliver some unsettling, disturbing imagery throughout the runtime. Though the film fails when Shyamalan is trying to make such a premise more artistic and grandiose, resulting in some overdone, melodramatic acting and questionable performance choices. This is an experience more recommended for a bargain matinee, or more likely an at-home streaming session or VOD rental when time is available.