OLD Movie Review: Compelling Shyamalan thriller with an underwhelming end
M Night Shyamalan's latest thriller explores a brilliant idea that gets spoiled by its ineffective final reveal
All life in the universe grows in time. The human experience is deeply rooted in the mental, emotional, physical, and philosophical growth that time offers. Most people aspire to grow old with their families. M Night Shyamalan plays with this concept of ageing in OLD, and it is wild. Like always he takes the ordinary and elevates it to its extreme through his wild imagination.
OLD follows a family of four: Guy Cappa (Gael García Bernal), his wife Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps), and their two children, Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton). They go on a vacation to a seaside resort called Anamika (which translates to 'Without A Name' in Sanskrit). There, the four, along with three other families are taken on a private trip to a nearby beach. Things turn weird when they meet a popular rapper named Mid-sized Sedan, whose girlfriend's body washes ashore.
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Nikki Amuka-Bird
Even before the film delves into its central idea, the film drops many hints that are sure to clear you off all suspicion and assumptions of what is set to follow. Whenever someone tries to leave, they end up waking up on the beach again. The heavenly beach soon becomes hell for the characters.
Things randomly begin to happen to the characters and there's palpable suspense in the air. Now, who's causing these sudden behavioural changes? Soon enough we see that the young ones of the crowd are not young anymore. Imagine a beach on Interstellar's Miller Planet, only that time moves much faster. As of now, all that we know are: They are trapped on the beach, time moves too faster, and a mysterious light shines from the top of a nearby cliff. All these happen within the first act of OLD.
OLD aims to retain the viewer's attention relying solely on how the narrative spills information. OLD's mind-blowing aspect is in how it deals with the idea of time moving faster. Scars heal, germs grow, bodies decompose, and whatnot! Just when you are wondering about the unanswered mysteries, more questions pile up. We organically begin to observe how the similarities and dissimilarities between the characters play out.
It also gets extremely distressing to see how the events affect one's mental, emotional, and spiritual experience. The consequences are scarier than nightmares. Saying anything about these portions might spoil the chilling experience it offers.
The uneasiness and breathlessness emanate through the screen, and this is because the characters in the film are too real to not care about. We get attached to them seeing their interpersonal dynamics, and with Michael Gioulakis's camera capturing it from such proximity, it becomes hard to see them go through such universal pain. Add the convincing performances, the judicious use of sound effects, and the eerie music, OLD becomes a compelling watch.
In the end, when Shyamalan shows his cards, the reveal is unexpected, yet, weak. Further, the underwhelming reveal robs the rewatch value that even Shyamalan's previous films with big final reveals have offered. Yet, it is bearable considering how the film makes up with the underlying statement, the brilliant imagery and the way the story is tied up.
Impressively, the world of OLD feels as restricted as the beach. Anything that happens beyond that world feels like an adventure by itself. When one looks back, among all the good things in the film, it is the strength of the characters during their struggles that strikes us hard. That makes OLD fresh.