Dir. M. Night Shyamalan (2021)
A bunch of vacationers find themselves trapped on a beach where they age their entire lives in a day.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Look, let’s all be honest with ourselves: M. Night has lost a lot of the magic from the earlier part of his career, especially considering the fact that The Sixth Sense and Signs were possibly all-time great horror films. Since those two movies, he’s received mountains of shit from people who seem to hate everything he’s done every since, with every trademark twist being derided as cheap or nonsensical and every plot picked to pieces to find any conceivable hole therein. But let’s be honest about a second fact as well: Shyamalan is a fantastic director, and if it were anybody else making movies like The Village (which I personally hate, but we’ll get into that at a later date), The Happening (which I personally love and will fight you), The Visit, or Split, we’d be having great discussions about this talented director whose work we look forward to seeing in the future. But because it’s M. Night, he can go fuck himself? I think we, as the horror community, need to come together and give the guy a break, because even when he’s not at his best, he makes incredibly watchable films that are entertaining and do, whether we like it or not, often have pretty interesting twists at the end. Plus, what was he supposed to do after The Sixth Sense? If any director started with that movie, there’s hardly any place to go but down. (For the purposes of this review, we will completely pretend that The Last Airbender doesn’t exist.)
It is through this forgiving lens that we review his latest work, which I saw long ago but never thought to write a review until rewatching it recently. Old is a movie about a smorgasbord of folks on vacation who stumble across a beautiful beach at a fancy resort who quickly discover that they’re aging at incredibly rapid rates. In fact, they’re aging so quickly that their entire lifespan will play out in roughly a day, which means that the people who weren’t already children when they arrived will likely die before sundown, and those who were children will reach adulthood and the perils that come with it throughout the day. It’s a fascinating premise for a movie, and of course it comes with the trademark Shyamalan twist, which in this case happens to work incredibly well for the movie and wraps everything up with a relatively neat little bow.
There were definitely some issues with the movie, and we’ll get to those in a second, but let’s start with common criticisms that aren’t issues with the movie. First off, fuck off with your plothole examinations. Every movie has plot holes, or at least every horror movie that I can think of. Horror movies are rife with issues in plot and pacing, and almost every single one of your favorite films from the genre have holes big enough to drive a truck through. The twist at the end is unrealistic, because it’s a science fiction film wrapped in a horrific storyline. Yeah, science fiction is unbelievable, even good science fiction. That’s why it’s science fiction and not a fucking documentary. Finally, it’s an M. Night Shyamalan movie. If you refuse to like him after his initial movies, stop watching his movies and shut the fuck up about them. You don’t have an informed opinion if your opinion was automatically set when you saw his name in the opening credits.
All that’s not to say that you must like this movie, because that’s for you to say. The aforementioned actual issues with the film come in a few different areas. First, the acting is often subpar to say the least. Some of the folks involved are great, like Alex Wolff (Hereditary) and Rufus Sewell (Dark City). A lot of the cast, though, did not do a phenomenal job, and their performances are probably the number one thing that could’ve easily taken me out of this movie. In fact, a few of the performances are non unlike Mark Wahlberg’s in The Happening, that wooden “Oh no, something is happening!” reaction to events that would be much more horrific than their faces show. Also, because things happen so quickly, on account of the aging phenomenon on the island, the audience bears witness to many different stages-of-life issues throughout the film. It’s a tad icky to think about two people who were just children having a baby, and it’s perhaps even ickier to realize that babies need to eat more to survive than they’re able to do in a world where a year’s time passes in a half hour. The characters make really dumb decisions throughout the film, though a lot of that is mitigated by the fact that not a damn one of us would have any clue what to do if we were put in the same situation, and most of us would likely make the same mistakes the characters make.
There are some great things about the film though. It’s a fascinating story, and Shyamalan does his damnedest to cover all the nooks and crannies of the situation as if it were really happening to his characters. The film is based on a graphic novel called “Sandcastles,” with roughly the same plot though lacking the fully explained Shyamatwist, and I highly recommend giving it a read as well. It’s a bizarre book, but it’s nice to get a little bit more background on the film after watching. This is one of the more disturbing concepts for a Shyamalan film, and if you’re a fan of disturbing horror, it’s just about the closest you’re going to get when checking out his work. At the end of the film is one of his better twists in my opinion, which helps to elevate the whole film to a level that Shyamalan hasn’t attained in a while. While this certainly isn’t his best work, it’s absolutely worth a watch, and it’s one that is a nice, lighthearted watch for a time when that kind of escapism is certainly welcome.
Who this movie is for: Twist lovers, Scifi horror aficionados, Shyamafans
Bottom line: Not half bad, and certainly not as bad as you’ve been told. We need to lay off Shyamalan a little bit, because he’s certainly gotten an unfair rap for not being able to reproduce the resounding successes of his first two films. It’s watchable and with a great twist, and some of the best psychological horror he’s produced so far. While it’s not going to be considered even in his top three films, it’s a fascinating concept that I’d love to see explored even further. Check this one out if you’re a fan of his work, or if you just like decent scifi horror.