In the M. Night Shyamalan spectrum, “Old” is not as much of a stinker as “After Earth” but not even close to being as terrific as “The Sixth Sense.” This tame thriller has a tension that feels flimsy, is burdened with clunky dialogue, and features awkward directorial choices that take viewers out of the movie.
Shyamalan is upheld in some circles as a “visionary” filmmaker, but that ship has long sailed (most of us knew there was trouble back in 2008 with “The Happening”). Here he falls back into his catalog of bad habits, and they feel worse than usual. Story-wise, the premise is great. Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters, the film embraces the mystery of a family on a tropical vacation who discover that the gorgeous beach where they’re spending a secluded day is causing them to age rapidly. Every 60 minutes that pass, they lose two years of their lives.
It’s horror story that wades into existential territory, pondering human nature’s aversion to aging and eventually facing the inevitability of our own mortality. This would’ve been a far different (and likely better) film if Shyamalan had made the decision to dive into the deep end instead of muting the more weighty themes, but the muzzling makes the end result more palatable for a wider audience.
The movie plays like a too-long, lame episode of “Black Mirror,” and it would have worked better for episodic television rather than a feature film. The primary mystery of the island is divulged quickly, so watching as everyone continues to age feels annoying and repetitive. There isn’t much to the idea and the cast, as hard as they try, can’t make it engaging enough. The performances are fine, but I didn’t really care if any of these characters made it out alive.
With “Old,” the strength is in the story’s plausible set-up. The problem is that it’s all downhill from there. Although adapted from original source material, the movie follows the typical pattern of a Shyamalan project: a good idea with slightly better than average storytelling that culminates in a finale reveal that’s an anticlimactic letdown.