M. Night Shyamalan’s Old is a thrilling, moment-to-moment ride. The film, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is based on the graphic novel Sandcastles by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters. Every tick of time and danger will hold audiences’ attention. Once we are born, our lives, however full they may be, are moments in a countdown to the end. But for the characters in Old death, and their time to meet it barrels forward in hours. With genuine terror and memorable moments, Old holds attention despite mishmash acting and weak dialogue.
Old is about a family of four on holiday who, along with others, wind up trapped on a secluded beach that is aging them. The idea for Old is engaging. Many viewers will wonder how they would use their last moments, especially when their demise is mere hours, instead of years, away. Another question arises: Would you want to know when your time is up, even if it’s sooner than you think?
Dreadful Premise & Tense Directing
There are moments of horror. One moment brings Tales From The Hood to mind, so I was howling while leaning back in horror. The other terror lies with the characters. Not everyone takes impending death well. Some reflect on paths not taken, some rage against the end, and few can or want to exist in the current moment. Health ailments that do damage over years are now ravaging your body over mere hours. That is dreadful and compelling to witness onscreen.
As for directing, it is clear that M. Night Shyamalan knows how to stretch tension. The angles, close-ups, and slow zooms increase the suspense. Audiences will be muttering “oh no” before each shock. He is also adept at including blinks of humor that elicit laughter and nervousness. But another part that helps to maintain suspense is the acting and dialogue. Here some roadblocks lead to momentary stops and starts. The climax is not wholly unexpected. It is true M. Night Shyamalan fashion, for better or worse.
Acting & Dialogue Is Like Drawing Straws
It’s tricky when dealing with characters who go from children to adults within a short amount of time. Teen comedies it, but as in this film, it is not always successful, particularly in the character of Trent. Nolan River plays child Trent as inquisitive, bright, and composed. However, Alex Wolff’s portrayal does not feel like the same character. But the dialogue doesn’t help. Maddox, played by Alexa Swinton and Thomasin McKenzie, respectively, works better. We see the nurturing older sibling dynamic played throughout the age leaps.
Rufus Sewell, who plays Charles, is also a standout alongside Abbey Lee, who plays his wife, Chrystal. Their relationship is tense and Charles, in particular, keeps moviegoers riveted. Maddox and Trent’s parents, Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and Guy (Gael García Bernal), grow on the viewer over time. Their acting is iffy, thanks to the script. The dialogue that tells rather than shows is irritating. Characters Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) share a moment that made me laugh a little. Ken Leung, as Jarin, also does an excellent job despite the confusing dialogue.
Although there are some missteps, Old does good enough to make it worth a viewing. Yet that will depend on whether audiences enjoy M. Night Shyamalan movies. Even more so, it will likely depend on which of his movies you loved and which were unforgivable. For my part, I enjoyed the film despite its failings. I don’t hate any of his movies; I like some less than others. Of the ones I’ve seen, this would rank somewhere in the middle, and it seems Unbreakable will forever be on top.
Feature Image courtesy of Universal