Old (2021) Review

The best of M Night Shyamalan movies have “the hook:” the concept that gets you invested in the story and Old has that. The movie follows a small group of holiday makers, made-up of differing family dynamics, thrown together on a secluded beach where it soon becomes apparent that they are aging at an incredible rate.

Its high concept but like the best of Shyamalan’s classic movies, there is a vast amount of scope for clever story-telling and twist-filled plot development. So we find characters going through the process of aging at such a speed that over the course of a few hours they develop loss of hearing, poor eye-sight or even more extreme symptoms like dementia.

It also plays well with the psychological aspect. The children grow and develop physically but not necessarily mentally so they have to cope with that effect as well. They go through traumas at a quick pace, be it dealing with injuries, the effect of a very intimate moment or just what it means to be dealing with this horrible situation.

It is played for horror too. Shyamalan has shown that he can handle the tension and suspense from movies such as The Sixth Sense or Signs and there are some great horror moments as the families on the beach begin to turn on one another. There are moments for the film where you don’t feel you can settle or you find yourself willing characters to succeed as others begin to mentally fall-apart.

Films like this only work if the justification behind the concept is solid. So many great, high-concept plots have found themselves becoming undone because there was little logic. The mystery of the beach is a good one to try to solve and thankfully, there is a great reason, with a very satisfying reveal, to why all of this is happening as it is. In fact, its a clever twist that makes you feel like Shyamalan is back on form after a patchy collection of movies.

That isn’t to say Old doesn’t have its missteps. Shyamalan wants to fit as much into this concept as possible which means there are moments which stretch credibility far too thin, such as a moment between two characters that results in a very “unplanned” development. It also feels like it takes the characters far too long to figure out what is going on and rather than enjoying them struggling to discover the truth, you just wish they would catch up to where the audience have been for so long already.

Overall, Old is a return to form for Shyamalan. It is a high-concept movie which leans heavily into the horror. There are some clever moments, supported by a great reveal and last act twists which satisfy. Look past some silly story-telling decisions and you have a solid and inventive movie.

Rating – 4

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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