When will people stop letting M. Night Shyamalan adapt work into a screenplay? Did studios learn NOTHING from Avatar: The Last Airbender? Old is adapted from the 2010 graphic novel Sandcastles by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. And, in true Shyamalan fashion, he adds his own twists and explanations that, I assume, he thinks are clever.
Old finds three groups of people traveling to a secluded beach at the recommendation of the resort manager of the place they are all staying. At first things seem alright. They have this beautiful beach all to themselves for the day. But, rather quickly, they begin to realize that everything isn’t what it seems. Wounds heal quickly and people seem to be rapidly aging, immediately noticeable in the three young children on the beach. The beach goers also quickly find out that they don’t actually have a way to get off the beach, as anybody that tries blacks out immediately and they soon must accept their fate.
Now, having seen more M. Night Shyamalan films in my lifetime than I like to admit, right from the beginning I was trying to figure out his “twist”. Because he’s an unbelievably predictable screenwriter, and always seems to want to have a large, conversation starting message in his films. Of course, these twists rarely start the dialogue that he wants, and instead focus on his screenwriting as a whole and his directing.
I don’t know that I can name another director who is as consistently bad at directing actors than Shyamalan. There are plenty of good actors in Old, as evidenced by other films these people have all been in. Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, and Embeth Davidtz are all actors that appear in this film that we, the audience, know have a good track record when it comes to their performances. So, why in heaven’s name is everybody’s performances so bad? Well, you could probably guess what I think the answer is. Easily some of the worst acting in this film goes to Ken Leung, another seasoned actor who we know is good in most other things. Shyamalan consistently in his career has shown that he gets the worst performances from his actors, with this film of his being one of the worst offenders. I mean, it’s up there with The Happening.
Now, there was at least one positive in this film that is absolutely worth mentioning. The makeup department deserves a large round of applause. The children were easy, visually, to show aging, just by getting different actors at different ages to play the same children. The rest of the cast, however, required makeup to show their aging, makeup that starts subtly and then rapidly increases. And those in the makeup department did a wonderful job. I cannot express that enough.
Unfortunately, I think that’s where my list of positivity ends. This film had so much potential. I desperately wish it would have been taken in a different direction or better executed. There were two moments of body horror that were wonderfully done, and I wish that path would have been taken a little more and have the PG-13 rating forgotten about. The twist in the film was fairly easy to guess because of a weird line towards the beginning that, at first, just seemed like a throwaway. The full explanation on how all these people found this resort was infuriating. And, M. Night Shyamalan putting himself, once again, in his own film in a pivotal role is frustrating. But, that last one is just a personal bias. I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s Alfred Hitchcock, but even Hitchcock rarely gave himself speaking roles.
Honestly, I was hoping to not be disappointed with this one. The trailers looked promising, the graphic novel has great reviews, and the overall concept is good. I just wish it would have been a different person writing and directing the film. How Shyamalan keeps getting studios to produce or distribute his films is honestly beyond me.