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Arts and Culture

"Old" Review With Casey

After the goofily far-fetched films Split (2016) and Glass (2019), director M. Night Shyamalan has not received much critical praise the past few years. Old is Shyamalan's latest film, and it's thankfully not a schizophrenic disaster...but it's not a brilliant triumph either.

While on vacation at a tropical island, a family is taken to a mysterious beach that causes people to age rapidly. Trapped in a false paradise, the confused tourists try to figure out an escape before time runs out. Old tries to be a Christopher Nolan-esque psychological thriller meets Agatha Christie mystery, addressing the universal fears of mortality and loss. Loss of youth, loss of loved ones, and loss of memory. 

I think most viewers will agree with me that M. Night Shyamalan's greatest strength is not believable screenwriting. So often his films tread a fine line between interesting and stupid, and Old is no exception. It has moments of intrigue through its evasive cinematography and unsettling musical score, but it also goes over the top with stereotypical characters and a laughably excessive death scene. (Dropping large rocks on yourself while lamenting your lost youth while stumbling through a shadowy cave isn't a smart way to captivate viewers.) Some of the dialogue is written with a realistic maturity, and some of it feels stunted or awkward, as if the actors themselves are unsure about what emotional direction to take.

Old is not the movie of the summer, and it certainly doesn't achieve the focused innovation or newness of Shyamalan's earlier films like The Sixth Sense (1999) or The Village (2004). But at least it's not as bad as Lady in the Water (2006) or After Earth (2013). Since everyone has their own personal anxieties about death and growing old, maybe the director's real intention was not to ignite fear in viewers but to ignite the varied and nuanced reactions from viewers like myself.