Release: July 23, 2021
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell
NO SPOILERS! This is a 100% safe read.
So there I stood. Front of the line. Credit card in hand and a smile on my face. I was entering a movie theater for the sole purpose of seeing a movie. Not just any movie. But a movie on opening night. To some, this may not seem like a big deal. But considering how the virus upended our lives and robbed us of even our most basic leisure and recreational activities, I’d say, “yeah. This is DEFINITELY a big deal.” But let me back up a second… That “line” that I was at the front of… Well… I was the only one in the line. And then I was one of eight people in the theater. Woof. So, okay. Maybe things aren’t entirely back to normal, but ya wanna know what is? M. Night Shyamalan. He’s mother effin’ back, y’all. Despite an alarming dearth of an audience (seriously, how are theaters still open), M. Night delivers the theater-going experience in spades with his new thriller “Old.”
“Old” tells the story of a family on a tropical vacation setting out to make quality family memories before announcing to their children that they are soon-to-be separated. As they begin their little resort vacation, they are invited to enjoy a one-of-a-kind scenic day-trip on a remote beach just a short drive down the road. Other resort guests join along (by invitation) and soon the entire group finds themselves enjoying a lovely day on a beautiful beach. As time ticks away, strange events begin to unfold. Soon, the group realizes that they are all aging rapidly across the course of the day and they cannot seem to stop it.
Classic M. Night
M. Night excites me for many reasons, one of which is that he’s just a great storyteller. “Old” takes a somewhat novel concept (based off a graphic novel) and turns it into something worth watching. Followers of his catalog will instantly recognize numerous trademarks and calling cards throughout. A classic thematic trope of his is that everything happens for a reason and everyone serves a purpose. Now, now, don’t PM me accusing me of spoiling the movie. I swear I’m not. This is a standard process for M. Night, and something you should fully expect (much like you should expect a knockout twist ending). But it’s not just his classic themes, it’s also the way in which he presents his story to the audience. In “Old,” M. Night’s classic formula lends a sense of familiarity despite an entirely new story, setting, and group of characters.
The Cinematography in “Old” is one of the movie’s best traits, and one of the acclaimed director’s strengths. In “Old,” M. Night graces the screen with unique camera angles and eerie music, as expected, but he takes it a step further with his character-revealing extreme close-ups. I expected a little more intimacy and connection with the characters when the camera was a half-inch from their faces, but the intended effect is conveyed nonetheless. These up-close-and-personal shots are found aplenty in perilous scenes, at times paying the slightest homage to classic horror from decade’s past. Audiences may be confused by some of the camerawork, and I’ll admit that it does occasionally distract from the story. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I admire his artistic direction with the aforementioned camerawork. The man is not afraid to be different, and that’s worthy of praise.
As M. Night is known to do in the past, he does so again here. Somehow, he finds real talent in the form of his cast. I was pleasantly surprised to see a wonderful performance from every actor, despite there being literally only one actor I recognized……. Looking at you Mr. M. Night. The children are quirky and strange, the mom and dad are struggling in their marriage, the other families have their own demons they’re wrestling with, and the list goes on. These people feel very human and real, and that goes a long way in believability. M. Night’s cast translates his story the way he sees fit, and this writer approves and agrees.
Overall, “Old” brings the classic M. Night thriller back to theaters where it belongs. The big screen makes the feeling of isolation more intense, and select scenes more visceral. It doesn’t take long for the story to have audiences begging for an answer to the mysteries within. I refused to believe that everyone would age out and the movie would just end (maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. You’ll have to see for yourself). But I also can’t help but feel like M. Night has become a victim of his own success. In his prime, he blessed cinema-history with some very impressive films littered with hints and bookended with a great twist. I can’t imagine how he’d ever be able to escape everyone’s high expectations of being blown away at the end of his films. *Sigh. Oh well. That’s a story for a different day.
I enjoyed “Old” quite a bit, yet I don’t get the sense it’s something I need to see twice to fully appreciate or grasp. The movie seems somewhat “on-the-nose” by the time you reach the closing credits. That “aha” moment is definitely there, and it’s pretty great, but it lacks that OOMPH… That special kick that makes you say “Hm, I need to see that again to catch the subtleties of the director’s greatness.” Either way, “Old” may not win any major awards (this was a major lost opportunity for a make-up artist to blow us away), it is still worthy of your time and attention. Get your butt out of your house and keep movie theaters alive because finally, theater-going is fun once again!
David “Nerdberry” is the proud founder and owner of Nerdbacon.com, a video game reviews and news website. Nerdberry owns a local pressure washing business in North Carolina, has a family, and a little house. With a college background in film and a personal love for dissecting movies, he feels aptly suited for Modern-Neon. The jury is still out on whether or not Modern-Neon wants him. We’ll see. But he is excited to be part of the team here in an effort to help it grow!