M. Night Shyamalan has made a new movie, and there’s really only one question: Why on earth would you click to read about it early? Have you not learned by now that whole point of Shyamalan movies is to walk in knowing as little as possible
I can understand trying to sniff out whether this is one of his good ones, like The Sixth Sense or Signs, or one of his bad ones, like Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender. So I’ll cut to the chase: Old is good. It’s very good. Now get out of here before it’s too late.
Ah, but there are times when merely wanting to leave isn’t enough. There’s no escape from the rushing current of time—and for the characters in Old there’s no escape from a private beach that, for reasons that I suppose one could call far-fetched, cause the cells in your body to age at supersonic speeds. One minute your adorable six-year-old son is groaning “are we there yet?” on the way to a resort; the next minute he’s a teen impregnating another fast-bloomer. ?
Guy (Gael García Bernal), a mild-mannered actuary, and Prisca (Vicky Krieps), a museum curator, have taken their two young kids Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton) to this unnamed island paradise in an attempt to cement one final good memory before they drop the bomb that they are separating. A friendly concierge (Gustaf Hammarsten) recommends they spend the day at an isolated cove surrounded by exotic rocks. Joining them is a cocky surgeon (Rufus Sewell), his trophy wife (Abbey Lee), their young daughter (Mikaya Fisher), his mother (Kathleen Chalfant), and their dog. Others pop up, like a nurse (Ken Leung), his therapist wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and a rapper with the awesome handle of Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre). It’s not long after they walk through the stone canyon to the gorgeous lagoon that they discover their first dead body.
This leads to panic and distrust—but before the film can turn into a full whodunnit (or whendunnit), the old lady dies, too. Was she overwhelmed by the shock of the grisly floating corpse? Before we can get into that, oh weird, now the dog is dead, too. And all the kids feel funny. In fact, Maddox, who was 11 just a minute ago, has now transformed into 20-year-old Thomasin McKenzie. Luckily, Mom has a second bathing suit to lend her daughter.
Though everyone tries to leave, they simply cannot: any attempt to cross the rock perimeter around the beach causes a blackout. Soon, everyone realizes that they are becoming older at an alarming rate. And like their bodies, Shyamalan’s script, based on a French graphic novel called Sandcastle, slams the accelerator on just about every physical and psychological complication you can think of: poor eyesight, blunted hearing, hunched backs (those early jokes about calcium supplements weren’t jokes!), dementia, the aforementioned rushed puberty.
Slowly, our heroes figure out what exactly is happening, and, in time, why it’s happening. Yes, there’s an “aha!” at the end, and as far as I am concerned, it is a satisfying conclusion. More importantly, the ride to it is exhilarating—and Shyamalan, whose past involvement as an actor in his own projects hasn’t always connected, finally gives himself the part he was born to play. (There’s also a nice, very small role for Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s striking daughter.)
There’s a laundry list of influences at play here, from Luis Bu?uel’s Exterminating Angel to E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (seriously) to at least three different Star Trek episodes, from The Original Series through Voyager. Shyamalan teases out new information in just the right doses, remembering all the while that this is, at its core, a B-picture. It isn’t gory, but it’s gross, and the camera knows just how much to show to keep us dialed in.
This is also a movie where audience participation is encouraged. Though I watched at home, on a link provided to critics, I still shouted at my laptop at least three times. There’s enough in Old that feels new.?
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