Tuesday, July 27, 2021

M. Night Shyamalan's "Old" isn't as bad as "The Happening" but doesn't compare to his early work either.


When "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable" and "Signs" came out, I was still pretty young, but I was a budding movie fan. I hadn't seen a ton yet, but I definitely could see greatness in certain directors at the time. I thought by this time now, 2021, that we'd be calling M. Night Shyamalan as a 21st Century horror auteur. Sadly, he never quite got there. I hated "The Village" the first time I saw it, and as I've seen a couple times since, well, its not a great or good movie, but it isn't a total failure. I thought "The Lady In The Water" was a total failure though, and "The Happening" is Shyamalan's worst according to me. His adaptation of "The Last Airbender" was laughably bad to me too.

Then later in 2010, something special happened. M. Night Shyamalan had an idea to introduce his Night Chronicles brand. He created the Night Chronicles studio and planned to write and produce some ideas, with someone else stepping in as director. Many film critics of the time thought what Shyamalan really needed was some collaborators, and I agreed. "Devil" was the first movie to come from Night Chronicles and while it didn't set the box office on fire, it was a special film, a word-of-mouth hit. Maybe that wasn't enough. I don't have the inside story to why Shyamalan's other Night Chronicles films didn't get made. But I thought it was a shame.

Shyamalan made a few more stupid films before he made his first great movie in over a decade. That film was "Split." I still stand by my review I wrote back in 2017. It's such a well put together film. Richly imagined. Beautifully acted. Wonderfully shot. It also had a fun twist that worked, the first one in a long time. It seemed like Shyamalan was back on his feet again and was having fun with some characters he had made awhile ago, and he had a fun idea to bring those things together. Unfortunately, I didn't think "Glass," the follow-up to "Split" was a bit disappointing. The thing is, Shyamalan's series on AppleTV+ called "Servant," starring Rupert Grint and Toby Kebbell is awesome. So he's still a very up and down artist.

Sadly, "Old" isn't a complete return to form. There are some good actors in this movie, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Thomasin McKenzie, Alex Wolff, Rufus Sewell, and Vicky Krieps to name a few. It features beautiful cinematography. It's got a potentially interesting premise that could be something very strange and frightening. A group of people get taken to an island where every half hour is a year off their life. The longer they are on the island, the more and more they age. Like I said, this had some potential to be interesting, but I can't really say that M. Night Shyamalan hits any grace notes with what he does here.

This being a Shyamalan film, there's a big twist. Yep, this is essentially a big budget "Twilight Zone" episode. Shyamalan in the late 90's and early 2000's was an expert at the twist ending. Suddenly, he's now hit or miss. I don't want this review to be littered with spoilers, but the twist here stinks. It raises more questions than it has time to answer, because the twist comes at the end. The type of twist they introduce here could have been better served it was similar to what we see in "Cabin In The Woods." It's simply too big to just throw in at the end of the movie.

Shyamalan also has a tendency to give his characters really weird tics instead of genuine personality. The guy from "The Happening" who loved plants and couldn't stop talking about hot dogs...well...it never gets that weird in old, but Shyamalan still sacrifices personality and development for goofiness. I mean there's a rap star named Mid-Sized Sedan in this movie and I can't help but laugh about that. Even when he's in moments in this film meant to be serious.

"Old" isn't as bad as Shyamalan's early blunders but I can't help but admit that I feeling of something to be desired when the credits began to roll.

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