M. Night Shyamalan returns to peak filmmaking form with a brilliantly twisted thriller. Old takes a unique premise and runs with it to true existential horror. What begins as a dream vacation turns into an unshakeable nightmare for a pair of families and couples. The film builds with a slow burn until the characters grasp the severity of their predicament. Shyamalan shepherds his cast through a whirlwind of emotions. Do they accept a cruel fate or somehow persevere? Strap yourself in for a dark journey loaded with surprises.
Based on the graphic novel “Sandcastle” by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old starts innocently with a family visiting paradise. Guy (Gael García Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps), their two children, eleven-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and six-year-old Trent (Nolan River), are overjoyed by the accommodations at the lush Animaka Resort. The manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) promises them an extra special experience at a secluded, secret cove.
Guy and Prisca are annoyed to find another family on their chartered bus. An arrogant doctor (Rufus Sewell), his mother (Kathleen Chalfant), vain trophy wife (Abbey Lee), and six-year-old daughter (Kyle Bailey) are along for the trip. They are dropped off, trek to the beach, and separate to enjoy themselves. The group reverie is once again broken by the arrival of another couple (Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird) and the realization that someone else is also nearby. The famous rapper, Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), watches the breaking waves stoically.
Prisca begins to feel uneasy. The kids yell that they’ve found lots of rusted cutlery in the sand. Their trepidation grows when a woman’s body washes up. The kids are sent away as the adults review the corpse. But when they’re brought back, Prisca is truly astonished. Guy cannot believe his eyes. Their children have grown. They beg the doctor to look them over. He’s stunned that his daughter has aged as well. Everyone is affected, but the change is more apparent with the kids. As the group struggles to comprehend what’s happening, they must escape the beach immediately. They’re literally running out of time.
Old is superbly crafted. Shyamalan, who also wrote the screenplay, drops clues from the beginning. But the characters, like the audience, must understand their importance and use that knowledge accordingly. It’s a puzzle that affects each member of the cast in a different way. Imagine hitting puberty in a matter of hours from childhood. The experience also forces the adults to confront their personal issues. There can be no more secrets between them. Honesty is the only way to find the ties that bind them together. Easy in principle, but difficult in execution. High pressure situations lead to cracks and instability.
Old has a riveting dramatic arc. The tension between the characters manifest in unexpected ways. Shyamalan blindsides with stunning plot developments. There are scenes that veer from touching to terrifying. You honestly cannot predict what will happen. As the narrative unfolds, everything makes sense and is logical.
Films with this level of intrigue usually fall flat in the third act. M. Night Shyamalan nails an exceptional finale. The climax is a whopper, but not out of the blue. Every breadcrumb was dropped for a reason. Old is masterful in every regard. Old is a production of Blinding Edge Pictures. It will be released theatrically by Universal Pictures on July 23rd.
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