This year, everyone’s “favorite” director – M. Night Shyamalan, returned with hist latest project – “Old”.
Shyamalan’s films are in general success or failure, with no middle ground. For example, “Sixth Sense”, “Split”, “Invulnerable” are all films that have been extremely well received by audiences and critics, while “Lady in the Water”, “The Village”, “The Happening” and many others, are complete flops. On the other hand, he was the creator of a number of cinematic techniques still used in Hollywood today. For example, the “twist”, which is a kind of revelation that reverses the whole point of the movie. The problem comes, when as a director you he started using too much of the “same” in his movies. This exhausts the audience and makes them lose interest in it. As a filmmaker, Shyamalan has very distinctive techniques that he uses and that can be seen in every single one of his movies.
For a full review of his latest work, we need to look at these techniques. I will divide them conditionally into “good” and “bad”.
- “The Twist” – although we know there is always one in his films, it is eagerly awaited
- Foreshadowing – it’s a technique that hints at future actions in the film without revealing them. The audience is kind of being prepared for the development of the story.
- Interesting story – his ideas are really good and the story in most of his films is compelling
- Cinematography – some of the best cinematic approaches (in most cases)
- Dialogues – the dialogues in his films are literally “inhuman”
- Character development – such in the general sense simply does not exist
- Development of the story – although interesting, in most cases he just “stucks” it in a dead end
- Pacing – the speed at which the action moves in the film is painfully slow
After this brief overview, it’s time to delve into the movie itself and whether it contains more of Shyamalan’s good or bad techniques. Here it is – “Old”
I’ll start with one of the best techniques. From the very beginning, the film prepares the audience for the story that is about to unfold, but unfortunately it reveals even too much. Knowing the name of the movie, the opening dialogue simply tells you what’s going to happen. The name itself may be to blame here. What it’s about:
“A family is going on holiday, to a resort offering a range of entertainment. From the moment they arrive, they are properly greeted personally by the manager and with complimentary cocktails. The resort offers a beach, swimming pool, diving and walks around the island. The manager offers to take the family and a few other visitors to a deserted beach, which is, however, extremely beautiful, and to provision them accordingly. They accept and upon reaching the beach, the strange things begin.”
With the summary so far, the analysis begins. The action is extremely slow, even in the first part of the film where we have to meet the main and supporting characters. Their very introduction is strange to say the least. Apart from the family, the other characters are a surgeon, his mother, his young wife and their young daughter, a male nurse, his wife and a famous rapper. They are all left on the deserted beach with the understanding that they will be picked up at 5pm the same day.
It’s worth mentioning that none of the characters are acting normal. The dialogues are also absurd, interwoven with the acting. At no point, can you tell that the characters care about each other. Constantly someone is lost on a beach with length no more than 50 meters. The best example, is right at the beginning. When most of the characters enter the beach, the rapper is already there, sitting and curled up on a rock right next to the entrance and absolutely no one is paying attention to him. One of the daughters remarks that she knows who he is and that’s it.
It’s only after the first corpse turns up that the rapper appears to recognize her, and even then there’s absolutely no reaction from him and the other characters just note that she’s dead. As the adults figure out what’s what and if they can get off the island to seek help, the kids abruptly age by 6-7 years.
Interestingly, they need about 20 more minutes of screen time to realize that time flows differently on the beach and they have to keep an eye on each other constantly. Every 1 hour equals 2 years. By this time, the kids are 18-19 years old and one of the girls gets pregnant. That’s a total of about 6 hours since they set foot on the beach. For 6 hours, no one keeps track of the children, the condition of the people and the circumstances around them. Even the children themselves don’t realize that they are aging rapidly.
It’s worth mentioning here that the film has two twists. One small and one big. The small one is that all the visitors, or at least one per family, have some sort of medical problem. As the characters age rapidly, these medical problems get worse. For example, the surgeon suffers from schizophrenia, which intensifies sharply on the beach. His young wife has a calcium deficiency, etc. Shyamalan has managed to capture the horror of these ailments and aging here. However, the aging itself is inconsistent.
If indeed 1 hour corresponds to 2 years, then in 24 hours, the actual time that has passed is 50 years. It is claimed that this only affects living tissue, but then why do corpses decompose and knives rust? Why food doesn’t spoil for their stay on the beach, and their nails don’t grow either. Why do children grow abruptly, but adults barely show their aging. Yeah maybe some people get better as the years go by, but that goes for everyone in this movie. Assuming the parents are 40 when they walk onto the beach (with two kids), in 12 hours they should be 65. They are said to be dying of natural causes or at least the parents of the main characters, but they don’t look to be over 60 when this happens.
Unfortunately, all of Shyamalan’s negative approaches are present in this movie. Slow pace which makes the interesting story boring. At one point, you just want to fast forward till the end of the film. Lack of adequate dialogues and relationships between the characters. Absolutely no development of the characters themselves. How they are introduced is how they end. No one learns anything about themselves nor manages to improve. Except maybe the parents from the main family. Typical horror movie techniques. And it could have been an outstanding psychological thriller if it had injected a little motivation into their actions.
The “twist” at the end, is something Shyamalan has perfected a lot. To be honest, he introduced, developed and enforced it in cinematography as an approach. Sadly, though, over the years, it turned from “WOW!” to “Meh.”. Since in any of his films, that’s to be expected, there’s no real way to surprise us. It happens here as well. While interesting, the ‘twist’ is not surprising. The subplot has long lost its “WOW!”, especially when expected.
In conclusion, is the film bad? No. Is it good? Again, no. It is an interesting idea with a boring execution and expected development. It’s about killing time if you have it (pun intended). If Shyamalan doesn’t change his approach soon, his films will become increasingly unwatchable. In the end, repetition is the father of boredom.