Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff star in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old”.
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film “Old” is not lacking in intrigue and tension, but it does not do justice to the director’s previous work, critics say.
His latest thriller follows the family of four Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their children Maddox (11) and Trent (6) on a tropical vacation. The family ventures to a secluded beach at the suggestion of the resort manager, but quickly realizes that the idyllic location is somehow aging them quickly.
The beach is also frequented by the rapper mid-size Sedan, the surgeon Charles and his family with wife Chrystal, little daughter Kara and mother Agnes, and married couple Jarin and Patricia. On top of the terror, the group has severe headaches that cause a power outage if they try to leave the area.
Critics agreed that “Old” isn’t Shyamalan’s best work, but it is nowhere near his worst. The director is famous for his surprising twists and turns and surprising endings, which range from ingenious (“The Sixth Sense”) to silly (“The Happening”). “Old” seems to be somewhere in between.
The Universal film currently has a 55 percent “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 153 reviews. This is how critics thought of Shyamalan’s “Old” before its debut on Friday.
Peter Travers, ABC News
The premise of “Old” is enticing, wrote Peter Travers in his review of the film for ABC News. The problem is that once it captivates you, it struggles to hold your attention for its entire duration.
“With a poet’s eye and a keen ear for dialogue, this suspense thriller is a provocation that Shyamalan lacks the ability to develop much less sustain,” said Travers.
“Old” is based on a graphic novel called “Sandcastle” which follows a similar premise but leaves the mystery of the supernatural beach open. In adapting the material, Shyamalan added his own explanation for the strange occurrences.
Some critics thought the reveal (which we don’t want to spoil here) was a harmless addition to the fable, while others, like Travers, thought the concept “lame” and distracting from the film.
“You leave ‘Old’ and wonder how a brilliant premise can end with such a botched job,” wrote Travers.
Read the full review from ABC News.
Rufus Sewell in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old.”
Robert Daniels, IGN
Critics like Robert Daniels from IGN were quick to point out how beautifully “Old” is shot. Daniels praised cinematographer Mike Gioluakis for his creativity in capturing horror on screen. He found that the aging effects and make-up were also achieved well by the special effects team.
However, stiff conversations and clumsy presentation in the character’s dialogues left something to be desired, he wrote.
“‘Old’ works best when it focuses on the horror of young people who experience the ravages of old age long before their time,” Daniels wrote in his review. “Strong performances by the entire cast manage to cover up what is possibly the worst and most rhythmically least believable dialogue in M. Night Shyamalan’s career, aside from his gritty live action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’.”
Many of the “amateur” explanations remained better than mysteries, he wrote.
“Still, ‘Old’ is just as deep as any thriller Shyamalan has ever made,” said Daniels. “It’s a movie that probably doesn’t deserve repeated consideration, but the first is a thought-provoking meditation on what it means to be alive that evokes dark, buried emotions like the water that kisses the sand.”
Read the full review from IGN.
Todd Gilchrist, The Wrap
Dialogue wasn’t the only criticism mentioned in the reviews of “Old”. Todd Gilchrist of The Wrap said the characters in the film “feel like they were developed by some kind of algorithm in a script program”.
“Among the ensemble stranded on the beach are a museum curator, an actuary, a thoracic surgeon, a nurse and a psychologist; each of them could just as well have been named after their profession, because Shyamalan not only assembles them with mechanical precision but also filters every situation in the story through the expertise they offer, guaranteeing a comical burst of exposure at every turn to judge how or why the circumstances have changed, “he wrote in his review of the film.
The actuary does a lot of tedious numbers tweaking, the psychologists encourage others to speak up about their feelings, and the characters react to situations in strange, unrealistic ways, he said. Many reviewers said that the audience might have been more emotionally involved in their life-or-death situations if these characters had been better elaborated.
“As is more and more the case in his films, Shyamalan is too busy with the machinery of his ideas to put them to a sniff test before we let them loose on characters who should or could interest us if only they would make decisions that would be remotely identifiable, ”said Gilchrist.
Read the full review of The Wrap.
Thomasin McKenzie and Gael Garcia Bernal star in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old”.
Adam Graham, Detroit News
Like many critics, Detroit News’s Adam Graham notes that “Old” is one of Shyamalan’s better films, but it falls short of previous hits like “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs”.
“The problem is, well, Shyamalan, who overwhelms himself with flashy camera work and messes up the atmosphere he creates with his clunky writing,” he wrote in his review. “Every time you’re in, he pulls you out again.”
Graham found the ending disappointing too, saying, “It’s hard to deliver a Doozy when the audience is trained to know you’re going to get the hell out of it.”
Read the full review from Detroit News.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC and NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes and is the distributor of “Old”.