Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
A family on a tropical holiday are invited on an excursion to a private beach. They are dropped off with another family and immediately fall in love with the beautiful scenery. That is, until a woman’s dead body washes up on the beach and the young children start rapidly aging into teenagers. Confused and frightened for the lives, the group must stick together to figure out what is happening and stay alive long enough to escape.
I am not sure what I expected from OLD, the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan. Would it be the kind of solid Thriller that once had him labeled as the next Spielberg, or the trite trash critics and audiences have made a pastime of criticizing him over?
Would it surprise you to hear it might be a bit of both?
The first half of OLD is a baffling experience that becomes gradually more aggravating. We barely get to know any of the characters before they are foisted together onto the beach and start noticing weird things. That whole time, each character talks in a confused, befuddled way; almost as if they are amateur day players who barely learned their lines. Their words are wooden and emotionless. I understand they are confused and mortified by their situation, but they do not react or talk like real people. One unintentionally hysterical line from a character named Midsize Sedan (not kidding) had me wheezing from how outlandish it was. And why does Shyamalan keep forgetting about what some characters are doing and constantly ignoring any rules he sets out for them?
The Cinematography capturing all of this madness is somehow even more perplexing and may go down as the most chaotic camera work I have ever seen. The camera is always moving, capturing the strangest angles and never staying still. The amount of times it moves around in circles is outrageous, and the number of bizarre wide-angle shots and extreme close-ups is absurd. It just does not make any sense and only adds to the confusion of what is happening. Whether that is intentional or not is unclear, but what is clear is that there are only so many creative ways to capture action on a secluded beach and most of these shots are not it.
When the Second Act kicks in however, OLD suddenly becomes just as intriguing and interesting as I hoped it would be. The dialogue and camera work is still atrocious, yet the ideas Shyamalan had been playing into start clicking into place. It is not so much the mysteries being addressed that improves so much as the cleverness of the Script finally catching up with the on-screen chaos. It becomes significantly more terrifying and cohesive as a result, leading to some nasty body horror elements. Save for one moment, the makeup and special effects work in all of these scenes is top-notch, subtly capturing the characters’ rapid aging and deterioration quite impressively. When it gets to that doozy of a Shyamalan twist, you will wish the rest of the Film that came before it matched its sheer audacity.
OLD is a wild ride. It is unintentionally hilarious in some scenes and deeply disturbing in others. I was in a state of shock for most of the Film, uneasy and confused over what Shyamalan was going for. If that is the point, it becomes significantly more frustrating to consider. And while there are some genuinely great ideas layered throughout OLD – you really need to wade through a lot of ghastly nonsense to get to them.
Universal Pictures Canada release OLD in theatres Friday, July 23, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*