Starring: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin Mackenzie
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 108 mins
Old is an American film about a family who take a trip to an idyllic seaside resort, where they visit a beach which mysteriously begins to make them and a group of fellow holidaymakers age at a frightening pace.
Another mad entry in the topsy-turvy filmography of director M. Night Shyamalan, Old combines a brilliantly manic sci-fi premise with strong performances and some really good visual effects to deliver a genuinely entertaining blockbuster, albeit never the mind-boggling thriller that it’s perhaps meant to be.
And that’s probably the most important thing to know about Old, that it’s not one of Shyamalan’s best, and is best watched with your brain turned off. The film is almost entirely lacking in character depth akin to The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, although it is by no means as thin on the ground nor as tedious as the likes of The Happening.
That might be why I personally found Old to be such a charming and enjoyable watch, though. It’s no masterpiece, and its attempts to craft shock twists and mind-bending drama really are poor, but its enjoyably crazy premise and the dedication of its cast to acting that out with gusto is really a lot of fun to watch.
From the central family members of Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps and the children to a whole host of supporting characters, Old takes what could have worked nicely as an isolated survival thriller and turns it into a disaster movie of Airport-esque proportions, with an ensemble of mismatched personalities whose clashes cause more chaos than the magically age-enhancing beach they find themselves trapped on.
The characters are extremely one-dimensional, and apart from one touching scene towards the end of the movie, you don’t really care whether they survive their ordeal or not. In fact, it’s actually more fun than anything to watch them get older, with the film not really needing any twist ending to close out its story.
That being said, this is an M. Night Shyamalan film, and twists are always in order, especially towards the end of the movie. First off, some of the tropes in this movie are plain ridiculous – particularly the reason that the characters can’t get off the beach; it really doesn’t make much sense.
The ending, too, isn’t particularly earth-shattering, even compromising the one bit of potentially challenging and sobering drama for a rather cheap conclusion. There are hints towards other Shyamalan movies which may or may not be red herrings, but they feel a little forced and unwarranted after the story that’s just come before.
The last thing of note about Old, however, are its visual effects, which really are impressive. I’m not talking about the cinematography, which is frustratingly styled in a way that makes it difficult to see characters a lot of the time, but rather the practical and CGI effects to make the characters look older.
From subtle touches of wrinkles and bags under eyes to out-of-this-world body transformations and injuries (there is one scene in particular that I’m referring to with this one), the visual effects are outstanding in this movie, and go a long way to making such a preposterous premise as engaging and believable as can be.
But overall, Old is still a movie that’s best enjoyed without ever thinking too seriously. It’s a simple thriller with little depth to it, but is by far at its most entertaining when it’s at its most ludicrous, complete with bonkers twists and an energetic cast that turn a manic film into an enjoyable watch. So, that’s why I’m giving Old a 7.3.