Old isn't director M. Night Shyamalan's sharpest or most twisted film to date, but with the right perspective, most should find enough to warrant a viewing as it's an interesting take on time and just how precious of a commodity it truly is.
Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan returns to the big-screen with Old, following up his successful “trilogy” of films that deconstructed the whole comic book movie thing, now honing in on a small-scaled story set on a remote beach that has mysterious aging properties that causes everything to age at a rapid pace. Old, adapted from a graphic novel, is a thrilling piece of mind-bending sci-fi as Shyamalan throws in his trademark suspense through an over-the-top lens that results in a film that’s clearly trying to comment on time as a commodity and an important and finite resource that we are clearly wasting as a species and with that in mind, I’d call it mid-level Shyamalan as it doesn’t strike out completely, but it’s far from a home run.
A typical tropical beach vacation turns into everything but as various families and couples get invited to a private beach for the day, only to soon realize that things are not what the seem. Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their kids Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie for most of the film) and Trent (Alex Wolff for most of the film) are the main characters, but are joined by another family, a couple and a loner that’s been suspiciously waiting on the beach before they arrived.
What we quickly find out is that there’s no escaping this beach and that time moves very quickly, with ten minutes equating to something like two hours.
The children are quickly teenagers and then eventually adults, while the adults age less noticeably, which means small things like wrinkles at first, but soon blindness, hearing issues and the normal medical problems that might otherwise plague an older person.
Why is it happening? Who is causing this and why were these people selected for this bizarre day in paradise?
Of course writer/director M. Night Shyamalan wants you to rattle your brain around the concept of his film and then eventually try to guess his twist ending as that has become his clear storytelling trademark. And while Old does wrap things up in complete fashion, I will say that the twist isn’t the most satisfying part of the film as it’s almost obvious, if not slightly besides the point.
What M. Night is trying to comment on here is time as a currency and how we as humans are wasting it. He also forces his characters to reflect on time as they make split decisions that will ultimately cost them their lives, because minutes are now hours and seconds are now minutes.
Early on in the film, they make the calculation that essentially says most of the adults will be dead within a day and the kids will hold out slightly longer — talk about a time crunch.
And yet M. Night manages to dive in deeper and take Old from thrilling B-movie to a somewhat reflective film. There’s a moment mid-to-last act where two main characters decide to simply stop what they are doing and start building a sandcastle, knowing fully what will happen to them by sidelining some time to have this moment, but they don’t really care, because they understand that time is limited and that we should be spending it on the people that matter the most and by doing the things that we love.
This subtle moment is gone after the blink of an eye, but I think it shows M. Night’s intentions and while most of Old is fluid and concentrated, there are a few moments like this that draw out some real emotion, outside of terror and panic.
I’ve recently found new employment and oddly enough, this was the movie that I watched immediately after my last day at my previous employer, which I spent nearly ten years with. And what a punch to the gut this movie was, forcing me to reflect back on my last decade and to highlight the good, the bad and the moments that my time was surely wasted or spent wisely and it really does make you think about time as a currency that we never get more of — we are born with an estimated amount that is only depleting with every breath we take and it’s both horrifying and peaceful knowing that, because it forces us to remind ourselves of this fact and to spend our time doing the things that we enjoy.
And that is what Old is telling us. M. Night (adapting from a graphic novel called Sandcastle, written by Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters) is having these characters rapidly age and yet, are forced to reflect and to make time-sensitive decisions that could ultimately ruin their lives. And he does it with a somewhat bleak commentary on the human race and how we are notoriously known for wasting time and most of our other resources, despite having the tools to do such marvelous things. Somehow we always find a way to mess things up and let greed get the best of us.
Putting aside my own personal baggage that was brought into Old has me putting the film somewhat in the middle amongst M. Night’s controversial filmography. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as his previous two or three films, but I’ll take it over The Happening or After Earth without a doubt.