This time, Director M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t just go for surprises, he tries to penalize you, we loved him.
M. Night Shyamalan never made such a strong film, the Old. Behind The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the filmmaker seizes and squeezes his audience with a vise for almost two hours. It is an unstoppable film of terror, fear, and anxiety, but you can’t take the screen away from your eyes at the same time because you just have to know what’s next.
The vintage stars of Old Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps (The Girl on the Spider’s Web) Guy and Prisca Capa are based on the graphic novel of Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. The couple are going through some difficult times but decide on a holiday with their children, Trent and Maddox. The Capas end up in an apparently perfect resort, where the manager likes them and recommends that they go to that beach. You and a few other guests will therefore spend a relaxing day in the sun in this amazing and secluded area. However, that’s the last time Old can use the word “relaxation.”
Just as a roller coaster that has clicked on its first tilt, Shyamalan –who wrote and directed Old– slowly starts to increase tension and uncover conflict: time does not work on the beach as usual; time passes much faster and everybody starts to age in an exponential way. In just a matter of hours, Trent, six years old, looks 15. The same for Maddox and the rest of the beach people. Everyone is afraid and confused, and things turn very, very fast… like an avalanche of misfortune and terror.
techno.rentetan.com – Those mysteries are at the very core of the old: Why these people and why and can they get away from this place? So you keep watching as Shyamalan puts unspeakable hell on the characters. Fear and confusion leads to anger and abuse, life and development go unnoticed and lead to unimaginative heartbreak. The premise is almost entirely adverse, medical conditions are worsening exponentially. And when one problem appears to be solved, there appears another, again and again, in its place.
Fortunately, while unbelievably tense, most of these scenarios are relatively tame. But when the movie goes about things, here and there, they get super gross. Never excessively violent or stupid. Only, big.
I can’t really emphasize sufficiently how stressful Old made me feel. Very few films in recent memory caused such a visceral, physical reaction, and this is testament to the filmmaking of Shyamalan. Besides the main feature and momentum in the story, it will keep you always on the edge of your seat whether it is a shaking Steadicam up and down on the beach with an off-center frame.
All of this is perfectly matched by Trevor Gureckis’ propulsive, drum-heavy music. Also, although the makeup is not immediately clear at the beginning of the movies, the aging continues and all those people move faster and faster into probable, unavoidable death. There are some poignant moments on the way, particularly as this film comes to an end, and they just give you sufficient balance to breathe until the next bad thing occurs.
The filmmaking prowess of Shyamalan would not work as well, otherwise, for the actors’ performances. Bernal and Krieps are excellent as the central characters of the film, parents who are working hard to keep all as calm as possible. Everyone is strong and stoic on the surface but increasingly frightened and exposed just below it. As the teenage versions of Trent and Maddox Alex Wolff (Hereditary), and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), each one with the appropriate confidence and fear that one could think of a kid in the morning but an adult in the evening, are presented.
Smaller supporting roles are beautifully nuanced as are Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale), Ken Leung (Lost) and Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), though they are sometimes forgotten for longer periods of time. On the way there are a couple of other small hips—for example, the end. It feels a little rushed while it is cohesive and satisfying.
However, in the end, Old is the Shyamalan show M. Night, down to his cameo trademark. On this intestinal ride he is the marionette master and travels us back and forth in the hell. It’s not an easy trip—as if it’s not for the characters—and the film never lingers or leaves you bored. In fact, you almost want a little more time to consider the huge ethical dilemmas and life lessons with which Shyamalan struggles here, but there are no. For fear he is forced to sacrifice thought. Old is a knockout to the intestines and to date one of the best Shyamalan films.
Old – stars Alexa Swinton, Embeth Davidtz, Nolan River, Luca Faustino Rodriguez and Emun Elliott too – opened only on 23 July in theatres.