Few directors have captivated the industry quite like M. Night Shyamalan. He spring boarded onto the scene with a trio of compelling films some would consider iconic. “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”, and “Signs” were quality flicks that also delivered ambitiously creative concepts and ideas. And like that, Shyamalan was a go-to for truly unique film concepts. From there he took a dip with a series of films that failed to excite critics or audiences. Some wondered if Shyamalan’s best work was behind him. I’ve been a longtime fan of his and I’ve found appeal in even some of his not-so-popular titles. So, when sitting down for “Old” I was excited and hopeful for another eerie journey into Shyamalan’s mind.
Does this film provide that? Yes. But this journey was a bit of a letdown, and yet again felt like a fascinating Shyamalan concept that was lacking the middle act substance to allow the suspense to hit with genuine effect. The opening act is compelling, and it sets the stage for what should have been a sinister mystery surrounding a group of strangers on an isolated beach. The beauty of the tropical settings is an appealing contrast to the foreboding sense that something evil is swirling all around them. Which set the stage nicely and lured me into the story.
However, from there it progresses through a second-act that forces the viewer to take many of the suspenseful situations at face-value. The characters start aging, naturally it’s more noticeable in the kids, and it does build a strong fascination in where it all will go. But for the most part, the film focuses on the effects of the characters aging for visual intensity. The reasoning or cause of all this was teased but very minimally. The result for me was sitting through the film simply waiting to see what the ‘Shyamalan Twist’ would be.
The performances, for the most part were all serviceable. The awkward rapport between this group did feel natural and the various dynamics between them was interesting. This provides enough tension between the group to sprinkle in moments of uneasiness as they all react differently to what is happening. So overall, the characters were fine, but again with the story lacking depth, so were their personas. The movie as a whole felt like an idea that hadn’t been fully fleshed out and once the reveal is given, it only makes more of the intended suspense and frightening visuals even nonsensical.
It does have a grim tone that was perfect for luring the viewer in. But the pieces of this one that I enjoyed weren’t properly fused together with a coherent narrative. After a while all the dramatic intensity felt unintentionally silly. The intended mystery here only caused a disconnect because there is an appealing atmosphere to escape into, but it didn’t follow through. The direction felt overly intentional, and, in the end, this movie felt more like a Shyamalan inspired fan film than his own newest cinematic vision.
Anthony J. Digioia II - SilverScreen Analysis © All Rights Reserved.