Which M. Night Shyamalan am I going to get when I sit down to watch his new 2021 mystery thrilled, OLD?
The brilliant storyteller that can surprise me and make me jump like he did with “Signs”, “The Sixth Sense” or “Unbreakable”? Or the total hack that unintentionally made me laugh out loud with “The Happening” and the idiotic “The Village”?
The good news is that OLD falls more into the former category, while occasionally dancing uncomfortably into the latter.
Gael Garcia Bernal (U tu mama Tambien) and Vicky Krieps (The Phantom Thread) star as Guy and Prisca, a struggling couple taking their young children to a top-tier secret getaway island for one last family vacation.
Rufus Sewell and Abbey Lee are Charles, a doctor and his vain wife Chrystal, also arriving with their daughter for a getaway. They meet a nurse named Jarin (Ken Leung looking very familiar in lush tropical territory after his time on “Lost”) and his psychologist wife Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) at the upscale, stunning resort.
Soon their off to a very secluded, beautiful beach that’s only accessible by a very narrow passageway through massive rock walls.
It’s jaw dropping, but soon begins to reveal disturbing secrets.
If you’ve seen the previews or even looked at the poster, you know that the beach appears to make its occupants age at an incredible rate.
9-year-old kids are soon teenagers and young adults, senior citizens quickly morph into dead relatives. A well-known rapper named Mid-Size Sedan (Aaron Pierre, deserving a better character name) is already on the beach, but his girlfriend drives the first mystery for the group, setting up a Hercule Poirot murder mystery that quickly morphs into a Twilight Zone episode.
There’s fun to be had here if you give yourself over to Shyamalan’s whims. He doesn’t always make it easy, with jarring tonal shifts from comic lines to violent stabbings. Throw in a couple of kids that were only 9 a few minutes ago who appear to have sex and get pregnant, and you’ve got some cringe-worthy plot points that leave you scratching your head.
The answers to the powers of the secluded beach are worth discovering on your own. Thankfully they are smarter than the dumbshit logic of Shyamalan’s time shifting in “The Village” or killer trees and bushes in the godawful “The Happening”.
Sewell’s character is a real weak link. What is driving him? Why does he do half the things that he does on the beach? It’s hard for me to pull for a character when they don’t make any sense.
The conclusion, while a bit clever, falls a bit flat in its exposition, leaving me feeling like I was watching some b-movie version of Jurassic Park mashed up with Michael Chrichton’s “Coma”.
M. Night has said that he felt the small group trapped on the beach in fear of deadly phenomenon was his way of addressing Covid and fear of aging.
After the past two years, I’m not sure anyone needs to see any kind of entertainment that reminds us of being stuck in a situation and not able to leave, but at least the photography is excellent, as are the locations.
OLD moves fairly quickly, offers some fun moments, no real scares and a few eye-rolling interactions on its way to a C+. As far as M. Night films go, this one runs aground on the beach in the middle of the pack, finally generating a less than enthusiastic “Meh” and a halfhearted shoulder shrug.