Famous for his twists, M. Night Shyamalan gives audiences a slow turn (and burn) in his new film “Old.” While competent, it doesn’t connect as well as it should. By prioritizing the plight of too many people, their strange situation trumps your caring about the characters. Ultimately, “Old” has all the excitement of watching a butterfly in a killing jar and wondering if it’ll get out.
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Guy (cool name), who goes on vacation to a tropical resort with wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and two young children, Trent (aged 6) and Maddox (aged 11). Greeted by the resort’s manager (Gustaf Hammarsten), they’re given an exclusive invitation to spend time at a secluded beach. A shuttle bus takes them and four other guests- a family headed by Charles (Rufus Sewell) – to the beach and leaves them there with overloaded food baskets. Why so much food? These eight people are about to experience overactive metabolisms.
Four more people join the beach scene and all slowly realize a scary truth- the beach accelerates their aging. When Trent and Maddox introduce themselves to a couple by their ages after spending some time frolicking in the sand, the couple sees they’re physically older. In fact, the beach ages you one year every half hour. Try to leave the beach’s boundaries and you blackout. The scenario of aging rapidly soon becomes an Agatha Christie mystery. With time as their enemy, can these tourists come up with an escape plan before succumbing to the force feeding on them?
“Old” has some good moments that allow you to care: Guy and Prisca coming to terms with their relationship as they realize they’re running out of time; actor Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”) showing some good acting chops as “15 year-old “Trent in a role running the gambit of going through puberty, finding first love, and reeling from a quick succession of life tragedies without the experience not be overwhelmed. But all of this gets swallowed by the plot and a bunch of characters with different perspectives and problems, so much so that less would have been more.
While too many tourists keep “Old’s” insanity from becoming intimate, it does give the film a fast pace. Moving quickly among the characters, different questions are answered as horrible consequences begin to befall them. However, when your main question is simply ‘can they escape before they expire?’ a dozen people feels like overkill. Based on the graphic novel, “Sandcastle,” Shymalan’s adapted it to his style. In doing so, “Old” feels like a fairly decent “Black Mirror” episode- good hook, interesting situations and a resolution that doesn’t come off as completely ridiculous given its supernatural setting.