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It has been an interesting journey for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. Literally every single step has been a talking point. Even from the very beginning when being heralded as the next Spielberg after his breakout 1999 hit The Sixth Sense, to immediately offering up a challenging at the time but celebrated years on drama Unbreakable (for my money his best work). Following that initial success, he immediately went full on polarising with The Village and Signs, before entering a near 10 year nadir, with some of his worst – and the worst – ever films (The Happening, The Last Airbender).
Then came the unexpected – but thankful – comeback hinted by The Visit and full-on confirmed by Split. And now, after all this time, Shyamalan is back on divisive form (see Glass) but, through it all, I have really come to admire his dogged determination to remain unapologetically himself. No matter what happens, you can safely say that when you purchase a ticket to see a new film of his, it is not only an event or talking point but it will very much be his work entirely unfiltered and often uniquely so, and in his latest movie Old, Shyamalan has a heck of an attention-hooking concept.
Set on an idyllic resort, where families go to get away from their lives and stresses, the film focuses on a core group of holidaymakers, as they are told about an isolated stretch of beach, where they can relax undisturbed and live their best life. However, they soon come to realise that life and time is indeed short, especially in this seemingly inescapable place, where each passing moment ages them quicker, which comes with its fair share of issues.
Old is once again a very audience-splitting work, and a film where M. Night Shyamalan dedicatedly rolls with his concept, resulting in the interesting, the strange and the downright silly, stretching the idea to breaking point many times but also raising some interesting themes to think on, even if they don’t dip too far beneath the surface. Some will lambast the script’s logic, while others will simply go with the flow and if you can do that latter point, you will find some distinctive horror thrills are to be had here in this film which – appropriately enough – sometimes feels a bit longer than it actually is but doesn’t outstay its welcome and comes with a final reveal that actually makes sense in its own twisted and distorted rulebook.
Michael Gioulakis’ beautiful cinematography absolutely steals the show, as the rapid-age beach is both a vitality-infused setting that realistically would lure many of us, as well as an acceptably alien and sinister force of unexplained natural powers. And while some of the characters trapped in said place are over the top, there are points harnessed from their plight and sometimes grisly fates, and the cast are dedicated to every twist and turn, no matter how looney, unsettling or deranged.
Old is an utterly strange film that didn’t go where I was expecting. Far from Shyamalan’s best work but far from his worst, and a film I’d happily revisit when I’m older and (perhaps) wiser.