"Old" stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abbey Lee, Aaron Pierre, Alex Wolff, Embeth Davidtz, Eliza Scanlen, Emun Elliot, Kathleen Chalfant, and Thomasin McKenzie. Released on July 23, 2021, the film is about a family who discovers a terrifying secret during their vacation.
The film was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who also directed films such as "The Sixth Sense", "The Village", "The Visit", and "Split". It is loosely based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. We've all been saying that our kids grow up so fast. One minute, they're young and joyful, and the next, they're old enough to start looking for jobs and even true love. This film will make us wish we haven't said those words. M. Night Shyamalan, the master of twist endings and suspense, continues his recent comeback that started with "The Visit" with a mystery thriller that showcases how scary growing up can be. The concept was one of the reasons why I wanted to see the film, with the other being Shyamalan, who I've been rooting for since 2016's "Split". Whether this frightening element succeeds or not will depend on the filmmaker's execution, which has proven to be quite divisive regarding his filmography. Was it a vacation worth taking, or are we better off staying home this summer? Let's head on down to the beach and find out.
The story centers on the Cappa family, which consists of Guy (Bernal) and Prisca (Krieps) and their young children Trent (Elliot) and Maddox (Davidtz). They travel to a tropical resort as their last family vacation before the couple's divorce. One day, the family visits a secluded beach with three other groups of vacationing people. They then discover that one of them begins to age rapidly, and the children suddenly become teenagers. Every parent's worse nightmare. Knowing that the mysterious beach is responsible for these changes, the people must join forces to solve the mystery and escape before their times are up. The plot is something out of a "Twilight Zone" episode regarding the strangeness of the environment and the tone. It painted a horrifying portrait of aging through people's bodies and medical conditions thanks to this phenomenon. It can be a scary thought seeing our time fly away in an instant without realizing it, and Shyamalan had a peculiar way of reminding his audience constantly. While his storytelling didn't age well with the themes it represented, the film managed to overcome this easy-to-spot flaw with its style and effective use of disturbance and frights. Shyamalan continued to play with his strengths by providing a sense of dread and mystery into the environment and the characters themselves. He didn't rely so much on jump scares to spook his audience. Instead, he used haunting imagery, along with its cinematography and editing, to gain some unnerving vibes from them, which I thought were handled very nicely. Speaking of the cinematography, it's not a surprise to see that cinematographer Michael Gioulakis conjured up another gorgeously-looking creep-fest that's filled with panning shots and some wide angles. After seeing that he's done other horror films with Shyamalan and Jordan Peele, like "Split" and "Us", it made me think that Gioulakis should deserve some more recognition for his remarkable work in the genre. I also want to mention the film's set design, most notably the beach, which looked as beautiful as the camera work. As for the film's narrative, it was pretty clear that Shyamalan hasn't quite recovered his "Sixth Sense" groove yet. Although, it did happen to provide some tolerance and enjoyment in its main characters and plot to keep it from being outdated. The entire cast was somewhat decent in their roles, including Bernal and Alex Wolff as Guy and Trent, respectively. However, there were a few times where their acting felt a bit wooden, mainly from the child actors who weren't nearly as compelling as the adults. When the actors were in "terrified mode", they're good, but when they're not, they're slightly passable. The same can be said about the dialogue, which was pretty rough around the edges. I wouldn't say that it's downright atrocious, but I will say that it wasn't astounding either. The last thing I want to mention is the film's twist ending. Yes, much like his other films, Shyamalan provided a shocking twist in the film's third act that changes how we look at the film entirely. These twist endings have been pretty divisive, with some people liking it and some people hating it. "Old" is unsurprisingly no exception. Without giving too much away, how did I feel about the ending? Honestly, it wasn't as good as the first two acts, in my opinion. The shock value in the twist wasn't nearly as impactful as I thought it would be, and it somehow managed to make some of its plot holes more impossible to ignore. It irritatingly raised a couple more questions instead of answering them thoroughly, which can be a massive nuisance for some people. I have to say that the ending in "Old" was by far the weakest the director has ever done so far in his career. If you like the ending, then hey, major props to you. I'm just not feeling it.
Overall, "Old" is anything but timeless, but when it comes to its creepiness and tension-filled moments, it's another enjoyable and chaotic ride that originated from Shyamalan's creative mind. His execution towards its plot is admittedly a hit-and-miss, with its ending and dialogue being the worse offenders. However, the visual style that cooperated with its tone and imagery managed to levitate it to "decent" status rather than let it sink to "The Last Airbender" status. With its tolerable cast, cinematography, set design, and Shyamalan's direction towards the horror aspect, this latest original thriller from the divisive filmmaker was worth my time. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist saying it. It's not something that'll completely turn Shyamalan's career around, but it does show that he's still working his way back to the top. It may be a slow process for him, but as long as he continues to build that momentum, I'm sure he'll get there eventually. It's only a matter of time. Dang it, I did it again!