Vacations on the whole can actually be pretty stressful affairs. The money, months of planning, and organizing schedules can often put a dent in the whole thing. People put a lot of pressure on the trip to fulfill some sort of relaxation or growth. Of course, if you’ve watched the trailers, growth is the last thing characters want in this new M. Night Shyamalan film.
Guy (Gael García Bernal) and his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) bring their two young kids to a tropical resort where they are greeted with the sort of creepy warmth we all know and can chuckle about. Thank goodness the vacationers haven’t watched Turistas.Of course, Guy and Prisca have more on their minds such as medical issues and their impending divorce that they want to keep from their children, Trent and Maddox, until the vacation is over. Kids are smart. They understand what the shouting means, and so when the resort manager ( Gustaf Hammarsten) recommends a private beach, they all are on board.
Writer/Director M.Night Shymalan has chosen his location well. At first glance the beach seems perfect as we’re introduced to other vacationers like Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Jarin (Ken Leung) along with a doctor named Charles (Rufus Sewell) and his wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) along with rapper Mid-Size Sedan (Aaron Pierre). Large groups are needed for films like this because this is a horror film and a body count must be tallied. Speaking of which, when a body is discovered, the group learns that they are trapped on this beach and their bodies are aging very quickly. A series of wide shots pan between actors as events happen, and most notably the kids have now turned into teenagers. It’s a unique situation the group finds themselves in and plan after plan comes crashing down as they try to yell over the roar of the waves in the background.
With so much frantic energy, the actors are engaging and Shamalyan does have some visual flair going. However, there are some things I found questionable on my first viewing. Artistic decisions that don’t necessarily downgrade it, but didn’t work for me, such as when the body is first discovered and two characters return to laying out on the beach as if nothing happened. Perhaps it’s a message about their characters, but personally I just found the way it was cut to feel rather odd. A dead body is a dead body, and when you’re within shouting distance of one, I feel like taking in the sun should be put on hold. Indeed, one character comes across as so vain that, as she ages, she starts to resemble a witch begging people not to look at her which many viewers could find terrifying or distasteful.
That’s a nitpick and artistic decision as I said, but Old has a few more pressing issues with clunky dialogue and characters yelling plot points into the wind while we wait for the inevitable twist to occur. It does, and while it plays well on screen, it isn’t anything groundbreaking or unexpected. The premise is intriguing but for Shyamalan this is median for his two grades of work when it could’ve been a slam-dunk. There’s many good philosophical moments as the kids grow to become teenagers before their parents can explain puberty or when one character's eyesight starts to fade, but I think having such a large cast set this film back. The tragedies start to numb you instead of horrify, which may be the point, but it certainly didn’t make for a great viewing experience.
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