If M. Night Shyamalan is anything, he’s consistent. Though it would be a stretch to call him an auteur, this still feels like one of his films. This fact is made all the more obvious when the director makes his obligatory cameo after not much longer than thirty minutes into the film.
The film of Shyamalan’s that Old is most reminiscent to is Devil (which he didn’t actually direct, he’s only credited as a writer). This is in the sense that it’s set in one location and shows a small group of characters tackle a mysterious supernatural force whilst beginning to turn on one another. The tone and atmosphere of both of these thrillers are very similar as well. It’s also about the same level of quality.
Instead of a lift, Old follows a family – Guy, Prisca, Trent and Maddox – going on a summer holiday to a resort they found randomly online. Whilst they’re there, they’re told of a “secret” beach that only a select few visitors are told about. After a few hours there, they notice that people are ageing very quickly.
While Shyamalan’s signature “style” of directing can be quite well executed with a lot of really tense scenes keeping you on the edge of your seat, there’s also a significant amount of times where the camera angles feel very weird and badly judged. There’s a lot of points where the camera is specifically placed to hide characters’ ageing from view which comes off more as hiding continuity errors and lazy special effects teams than actually trying to build tension. This is not to mention the egregious amount of times that the camera rotates around the cast as they chat in a circle.
The dialogue of Old, can become quite tiring, ironically. Many characters simply state what their character traits are. Early on, Trent (the main boy who’s played by various actors as he ages including Alex Wolff) goes around asking people their names and occupations. This is meant as a way to show how curious the character is but it seems to be more how the writing of these characters was approached. For example, Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) works with statistics and the majority of his dialogue is made up of quoting statistics. This would be fine for maybe a comic relief on the side, but Guy is one of the main family. Every other character too seems to constantly want to go on about their job.
How the actual ageing of all the characters looks varies in quality from actor to actor. The best examples are the children who all get very well cast actors to play them as teenagers and adults. The adults’ faces look really good, the wrinkle effects are very impressive. However no one ever seems to go grey or lose hair or anything like that. So when some characters die of old age, it seems sudden – even with the concept of the film in mind.
Moreover, the ageing doesn’t really make much sense and there are some things that just don’t seem right at all. Much like the Cars universe, if you ask too many questions, you’ll probably end up losing your mind.
Old is certainly very entertaining and can be pretty tense in places. The film though suffers from quite a bad script, up and down directing quality with OK acting that’s only slightly brought up by a great score. If you’re a fan of Shyamalan’s work, then you’ll most likely enjoy this. If not, then it certainly won’t convince you to like him.
Old is in cinemas now.