• by Jeff Beck

Old: Shyamalan's Streak of Disappointments Continues (Blu-ray)


The Film:


M. Night Shyamalan, a name that was once thought to be the next great voice in horror with his startling, Oscar-nominated debut, "The Sixth Sense," has since sadly become one that elicits chuckles at its mentioning. While his first outing was indeed an excellent film, and a couple of his follow-ups decent, nearly the last two decades have seen him deliver one disaster after another, including "Lady in the Water," "The Happening," "The Last Airbender," and "After Earth." Despite not having made a good film in quite some time, he keeps striving on and on, which brings us to his latest effort, "Old." It's certainly difficult to have much faith in what he delivers anymore, but who knows, he could always be just one film away from resurrecting that once-remarkable talent that he displayed all those years ago.


His latest feature tells the story of a vacationing family: Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps), and their two kids, Maddox and Trent. The couple is going through a divorce, so they've decided to take their children to a tropical resort, where the manager tells them of a secret, secluded beach. They visit it, along with other couples, and while it is a gorgeous location, they quickly find that something is wrong as the flow of time seems to be rapidly increased, causing them to age at an accelerated rate. Realizing that they only have about a day before the effect results in their deaths, they desperately search for a way to escape their nightmarish situation.


On the outset, "Old" has a somewhat interesting premise, with Shyamalan adapting the graphic novel "Sandcastle" by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters, but whether its from taking inspiration from a bad source or from Shyamalan's poor writing skills (more likely the latter), the film quickly has the writer/director falling into old habits of sub-par storytelling. Early on, it attempts to establish rules for what's happening on this beach, but we quickly find that it's already broken its own rules, and only continues to do so as the film progresses. While the premise is indeed interesting, it would seem that Shyamalan discovered early on that it was also rather limiting, forcing him to allow these lapses in logic so as to be able to keep the film going.


However, this was not to his or anyone else's benefit, as those limitations continue to show throughout the film with Shyamalan desperately trying to keep the story going. There's simply not a whole lot that can happen here as the strange effects of the beach continue to wreak havoc on the characters. The graphic novel from which Shyamalan took inspiration apparently delves into all kinds of complex themes of the human condition, but he just doesn't seem interested in exploring them in his adaptation, resulting in a film that merely plods along with its weak and nonsensical storytelling.


This all comes down to an unsatisfying conclusion/explanation as to why this is all happening, but that has become another somewhat expected occurrence with Shyamalan's films. One of his recent efforts, "Split," was rather close to being at least decent, but was ultimately ruined by an uninspired third act (though the film remains his best in a long time, with an exceptional performance from James McAvoy). With "Old," the audience just anticipates it, especially given the modicum of effort that went into the narrative overall.


What we're left with here is what's become a fairly typical Shyamalan outing: the start of an interesting idea, but one which he just doesn't really know what to do with (fairy tale creatures, killer plants, crash-landing on a hostile planet, etc.). That talent that got him two Oscar nods (and many other award nominations besides) over 20 years ago doesn't appear to be coming back anytime soon, and yet, there are still those that turn out time and time again, if only to see what incredible mess he's made now. One can only guess that they're also hoping that he'll hit it big again one of these days, but if "Old" remains any indication, it would seem wise for them not to hold their breath.


Video/Audio:


"Old" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The picture remains beautifully sharp throughout, highlighting the film's single best element: its gorgeous setting. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos DVS audio track delivers the dialogue, score, and sound effects in excellent quality, ultimately leaving you with a great experience in both departments.


Special Features:


Deleted Scenes (8 Minutes): A collection of ten rather brief deleted sequences.


Shyamalan Family Business (8 Minutes): A featurette that looks at Shyamalan working on the film with his family.


All the Beach is a Stage (10 Minutes): Explores the making of the film in its beautiful setting.


Nightmares in Paradise (7 Minutes): Another featurette that explores the setting and the importance of finding the right place.


A Family in the Moment (6 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on one of the film's big scenes.


Conclusion:


With its sub-par storytelling, lapses in logic, and generally dull plotting, "Old" represents another failed outing for struggling writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. With his consistent writing problems, shown heavily for about the last 15 years, one can only hope that he might consider taking a few classes in the art before moving forward with his next project, or else he merely seems doomed to continue on his current streak of disappointments.


Score: 2/5


Available on Blu-ray/DVD starting tomorrow.


Follow me on twitter @BeckFilmCritic.


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