The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - OLD | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - OLD

New to Netflix - OLD
A group of people find themselves aging rapidly on a secluded beach they can't escape.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: M. Might Shyamalan

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Eliza Scanlen, Thomasin McKenzie, Alex Wolff, Abbey Lee, Aaron Pierre, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Embeth Davidtz

old poster

When you review four or five new movies every week you inevitably come across a lot of turkeys. Occasionally you stumble across a free-range turkey, a movie that's objectively bad yet is clearly made by talented hands. M. Night Shyamalan is the modern master of the free-range turkey. Most of the movies he's made over the last 20 years have been pretty rough, yet there's always a diamond in the coalface that makes his work worth continuing to mine.

Old is just such a movie. Overall it's a mess. As with so many of Shyamalan's films it boasts a killer premise but never manages to exploit its potential. The dialogue is clunky as hell. The plot leaves you scratching your head with its many holes and oversights. The camerawork and editing are at times baffling. Yet for all that, there are brief, all too brief, glimpses of filmmaking brilliance that make Shyamalan one of the more interesting filmmakers working in mainstream cinema today, despite all his flaws.

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The blame for this one can't entirely be levelled at Shyamalan as Old is adapted from a graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters. You can see why the director was attracted to the project as its premise could easily have come from his own imagination. On a Fantasy Island style resort, a group of people are left on a secluded, seemingly idyllic beach, only to find themselves aging at a rate that equates to roughly one year for every 30 minutes. The only way out is through a cave that speeds up the aging process so much that you'd be dead before you made it through.

It's a cracking premise, isn't it? But sometimes the most arresting ideas just don’t translate into a feature film.

Old is about the role time plays in our lives. Near the end of the movie, one character, who is in their dotage by that point, expresses regret at wasting their time trying to find a way out of their predicament. The back half of their life passed them by in a matter of hours because they were too busy trying to escape from their life rather than sitting back and enjoying their time on the beach. Most of us live for roughly 80 decades, but how much of that time is spent actually living? Humans have developed a system that forces us to waste the bulk of our lives building security for a future we may not even make it to, and if we do, we'll probably be too knackered by that point to enjoy our freedom.

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It takes a long time for Shyamalan's film to make that point though, and you'll probably have lost patience with the movie before you can figure out what Shyamalan is trying to say in his own clunky way. You'll probably have grown frustrated with the film's half-assed approach to its central idea. You'll probably be distracted by questions like "If everyone is aging rapidly, why aren't their hair and nails growing?", "Why aren't their teeth rotting?" and "Why do the children seem to develop adult intellects as they rapidly age, without the years of experience and knowledge behind them?" Or you'll have grown irritated by the distractingly showy camerawork, all long pans that lead nowhere.

Early in his career Shyamalan was labelled "The New Spielberg," an impossible burden for any filmmaker to carry. If anything, Shyamalan might be the new Rod Serling, but Serling told his stories in 30 minutes, not 105. It's ironic that Old is about the time we waste, because it's really a Twilight Zone episode stretched out to feature length. If Shyamalan were born three decades earlier he'd probably be known for some of the best half hours of TV of the late 20th century, rather than for some of the worst feature films of the early 21st century.

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If Shyamalan is indeed Spielberg, then he's certainly not the Spielberg of the Raiders of the Lost Ark truck chase or the "We're gonna need a bigger boat" shock or Roy Neary discovering the real life mountain he's been making out of mashed potato. But he might be the Spielberg of Chief Brody's kid imitating his father's movements at the dinner table. Shyamalan is brilliant at developing characters through small visual gestures, something he sadly doesn't do enough of. There's an incredible moment in Old where Vicky Krieps asks her husband Gael Garcia Bernal to name the book she's currently reading. He hasn't a clue. She frowns and inserts her bookmark, towards the back of what might be described as a weighty tome. What an ingenious way to tell us everything we need to know about the relationship between this couple! How many of today's mainstream filmmakers could have come up with such a simple, economic piece of visual storytelling?

Halfway through Old, I couldn't wait for the movie to be over, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited for Shyamalan's next movie. If nothing else, Old serves as a curious sequel to The Father in which Rufus Sewell gets his comeuppance for mocking Anthony Hopkins' senility. You'll know what I mean when you see it.

Old is on Netflix UK/ROI now.