You know society is officially starting to get back to normal when we get another M. Night Shyamalan joint.
“Old” is the latest twisty-turny thriller from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, and his first since 2019’s “Glass.” It stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, and Alex Wolff as a family who get stranded on a beach with several other tourists, only to find themselves mysteriously aging rapidly.
M. Night Shyamalan has had a pretty spotty career, with three or four films on his record that have been universally accepted as good while also creating some of the most mocked films of the 21st century (“The Last Airbender” and “After Earth” to name two; “The Happening” is its own thing, that horror film is a comedic masterpiece). Here, Shyamalan finds himself somewhere in the middle of good and bad, presenting big ideas with hit-and-miss execution.
With Shyamalan’s films, much like Quetin Tarantino or Michael Bay, you pretty much know what you are going to get; the question is will it be the good version or the bad. Shyamalan has directed some terrific performances over the years (like a young Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” or James McAvoy in “Split”) but he has also overseen some terrible work, like Mark Wahlberg in “The Happening” or the entire cast in “Last Airbender.” Some of the cast is fine here, with Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps turning in serviceable work as a drifting-apart couple.
However Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie, both of whom are among the best young actors working today and have given some great performances in the past, are pretty terrible. You can put part of it on the fact they are 20-year-olds having to pretend to have the mentality of a 10-year-old, but they overact and/or undersell a lot of their dialogue, to the point of sometimes comedic results.
Now that’s not all their fault, as in true Shyamalan fashion the writing in the film is pretty bad. Characters literally introduce themselves to complete strangers with their names and occupation (“my name is Jarin, I am a nurse”) or have a perfect understanding of something completely random that just so happens to come in perfectly handy for an exact situation (“I was on my collegiate swim team!”). It gets to the point of being so eye-rolling that you chuckle, which maybe is part of the point.
The famous M. Night twist is actually solid, if not slightly underdeveloped, and did do enough for me to redeem the film in-part. I can predict that some people will have checked long before they arrive at the big reveal and for those people it may be too little too late, and that is understandable.
The problem with “Old” is that it is best enjoyed in a situation where you and some friends can openly laugh at the sheer lunacy of the events transpiring on-screen, and that is not something that is (at least respectfully) able to happen in a theater. It is dumb and only answers half the questions it raises, but I can’t say I was ever bored watching it. It is impossible to tell if M. Night is trolling audiences and making his movies dumb and ripe for parody on purpose or by happenstance, but maybe at this point in his career it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. So is “Old” worth seeing? I mean no, but also yes.
Critics Rating: 5/10