HOLLYWOOD—M. Night Shyamalan, as a director and writer he was a major influence on me as a screenwriter and director because of the amazing, epic job he did with the 1999 thriller “The Sixth Sense.” To this day it is the movie for me that had the best twist in cinematic history. I mean you get so absorbed in that entire movie, you don’t realize until the big twist is unveiled that Bruce Willis’ character has actually been dead the entire time.
It was done flawlessly, but the director has had trouble crafting a flick since then that is just as invigorating and exciting. “Unbreakable” was ok, “The Village” was good till the end, and “The Happening” was the absolute worst. “Split” was a major improvement, but his latest outing “Old” I have no clue what the filmmaker was going for with this movie.
The movie has an intriguing concept; people get stranded on an island where it seems to age them 1 year for every 30 minutes. At first there are teases of something sinister transpiring, but the audience is NOT quite clear of what is taking place. Shyamalan amplifies the suspense with close-up shots and distorted imagery to convey to the audience that something unexplainable is indeed transpiring underneath the surface. We have a couple, Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) who are taking their children Trent and Maddox on a family vacation to a tropical resort before deciding to end their marriage, there is rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), yes America that really is the character’s name and a female companion whose sudden disappearance sets the stage for the narrative to unfold. There is surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell), who seems to have odd behaviors that are later resolved as a result of his medical diagnosis that I will NOT spoil for the audience, in addition to several other characters who each play a role in the chaos unfolding.
The teens start to rapidly age causing the parents to wonder exactly what is transpiring. When members on this deserted beach attempt to flee, they wake up disoriented and confused by what is happening. The movie does become intriguing when the connection is made to the inhabitants on the island and people suffering from medical conditions. That is the only clue I will give you, as more mayhem unfolds.
Here is the problem with “Old,” it has plenty of promise leading up to the big climax, but the reveal of what is really happening on this island or beach is an utter disappointment. Why? It feels like a cheat almost. You’re looking at the screen saying “Really, this is the big twist, c’mon!” Yeah, that was my reaction to the big payoff, it was not the payoff I desired or actually wanted. There isn’t really much more that can be discussed without potentially spoiling the movie itself.
The problem with trying to deliver a twist on the audience is the fact that all the elements have to connect to a degree that each subsequent element leads to a bigger reveal, and I did not feel that watching “Old.” The ending actually makes the movie worse, because it attempts to untangle a web that just doesn’t work to be honest. Shyamalan has to simply focus on just writing a great movie; don’t focus on implementing a twist because people will ALWAYS compare it to “The Sixth Sense.” That movie was one-of-a-kind. It cannot be duplicated and “Old” is just another flick of the director that falls short of capturing that gotcha moment.