M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film “Old” doesn’t lack intrigue and suspense, but falls short of the director’s previous work, critics say.
His latest thriller follows a 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 on the advice of the resort’s manager, but soon realizes that the idyllic spot is causing them to age quickly.
The beach is also frequented by a rapper, Mid-Size Sedan, surgeon Charles and his family of wife Chrystal, young daughter Kara and mother Agnes, as well as a married couple, Jarin and Patricia. Adding to the terror is the fact that the group experiences intense blackout-inducing headaches as they try to leave the area.
Critics agreed that “Old” isn’t Shyamalan’s best work, but far from his worst. The director has become famous for his shocking plot twists and surprising endings that range from genius (“The Sixth Sense”) to asinine (“The Happening.”) “Old” seems to fall somewhere in between.
The Universal movie currently has a “Rotten” rating of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 153 reviews. Here’s what critics thought of Shyamalan’s “Old” ahead of its Friday debut.
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 gets hold of you, it struggles to hold your attention for the duration.
“Shot with a poet’s eye and a small ear for dialogue, this suspense thriller sets off a provocation that Shyamalan is incapable of developing much less sustain,” Travers said.
“Old” is based on a graphic novel called “Sandcastle,” which follows a similar premise, but leaves open the mystery of the supernatural beach. Shyamalan added his own explanation for the strange happenings when editing the material.
Some critics found the reveal (which won’t be spoiled here) an innocuous addition to the fable, while others, like Travers, felt the concept was “lame” and detracted from the film.
“You leave ‘Old’ wondering how a brilliant premise could end up with such a bumbling job,” Travers wrote.
Read the full ABC News review.
Robert Daniels, IGN
Critics like IGN’s Robert Daniels were quick to point out how beautifully shot “Old” is. Daniels praised cameraman Mike Gioluakis for his creativity in capturing the on-screen horror. He noted that the aging effects and makeup were also well accomplished by the special effects team.
However, stiff conversations and heavy-handed expositions in the character’s dialogue left a lot to be desired, he wrote.
“‘Old’ works best when it focuses on the horror of young people experiencing the test of time way ahead of their time,” Daniels wrote in his review. “Strong performances from the entire cast manage to obscure what is arguably the worst and least rhythmically believable dialogue of M. Night Shyamalan’s career, with the exception of his bleak live-action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’.”
Many of the “ham-fist” explanations were better left as mysteries, he wrote.
“Yet ‘Old’ is as deep as any thriller Shyamalan has done,” Daniels said. “It’s a film that probably won’t be watched over and over, but the first one is a thought-provoking meditation on what it means to be alive, evoking dark, buried feelings like the water kissing the sand.”
Read the full review from IGN.
Todd Gilchrist, The Wrap
Dialogue wasn’t the only flaw critics noted in “Old” reviews. Todd Gilchrist of The Wrap said the film’s characters “feel like they were designed by some sort of algorithm in a screenplay-writing program.”
“Among the ensemble stranded on the beach, there is a museum curator, an actuary, a thoracic surgeon, a nurse, and a psychologist; each of them might as well have been named after their profession, because Shyamalan didn’t just do them with mechanical precision. puts together but also filters each situation in the story by the expertise they provide, guaranteeing a comedic spurt of exposition at every turn to assess how or why circumstances have changed,” he wrote in his review of the film.
The actuary does a lot of tedious math, the psychologists encourage others to talk about their feelings, and characters react to situations in strange, unrealistic ways, he said. Many critics said that if these characters were more fleshed out, the audience might have been more emotionally involved in their life-or-death situation.
As is increasingly the case in his films, Shyamalan is too absorbed in the machinery of his ideas to give them a sniff test before unleashing them on characters we should or could care about, if only they had choices. that were recognizable from a distance,” Gilchrist said.
Read the full review of The Wrap.
Adam Graham, Detroit News
Like many critics, Detroit News’ Adam Graham notes that “Old” is one of Shyamalan’s better films, but falls short of previous successes like “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.”
“The problem is, well, Shyamalan, who overloads himself with gaudy camera work and ruins the atmosphere he creates with his clumsy writing,” he wrote in his review. “Every time you’re in it, it pulls you out.”
Graham, too, found the ending disappointing, saying: “It’s hard to deliver a doozy when the public is trained to know one is coming from the pike.”
Read the full Detroit News review.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC and NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes and is the distributor of ‘Old’.