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WHAT'S ON: Old — a holiday not worth the trip

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A group of holidaymakers are trapped on a beach where time is accelerating the ageing process, forcing them to find an escape before it's too late. Here's Dan Jensen to tell you why you should avoid this one.

★☆☆☆☆

OLD is the newest offering from writer/director M Night Shyamalan and tells the story of a family vacationing on a resort island where they find themselves, along with a few other characters, trapped on a beach where time causes everyone to age rapidly. They must work together in order to find a way to escape before they all die.

In the past, Shyamalan has brought us cinematic gems like The Sixth Sense while also creating turkeys like After Earth. His filmography is incredibly hit-and-miss, but when he’s good, he’s really good. Unfortunately, Old falls into the latter category and is a painful experience to get through. This is absolute bottom-barrel Shyamalan.

The most glaring fault of this movie is the performances from the cast, comprised of mostly lesser-known actors. Some of the acting in this film wasn’t much better than what you’d find in a high school drama production. It’s laughably bad. Coupled with dialogue that sounds like actors rehearsing lines as opposed to characters engaging in discussions and it’s really difficult to get invested in the story.

It’s hard to blame the cast, however, as there are a few actors who have delivered solid performances in the past. Thomasin McKenzie, who shone so brightly as Elsa in Jojo Rabbit, just seems bored here. Alex Wolff is another actor who has proven himself with better material in the past, whereas here, he’s just mediocre. This is clearly the result of poor directing and this feels like one of those times where Shyamalan thinks whatever he puts onto the screen is going to be great.

 

In terms of the cinematography, a lot of Shyamalan’s signature style is present in Old. The camera is sometimes placed somewhere unconventional or filling the screen with big close-ups. There’s a trick shot filming actors against a large window where the camera and crew are magically removed from the shot. And to its credit, at times the film did look good.

Of course, Shyamalan is most famous for his twist endings, but don’t expect one with this film. There is a revelation as to why our characters are in this situation, but it doesn’t really count as a twist. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered.

Another fault with Old trying to be too clever is that quite often, the “science” behind the time-warping mystery contradicts itself. In one scene, it’s explained that hair and nails won’t grow because they’re made of dead cells, yet a dead body decomposes to a skeleton within hours. Not only that, but in yet another massive exposition dump, they try to justify why the child characters grow into adults while the actual adults barely seem to age. The film picks and chooses its own rules when it's appropriate to move the plot which winds up being confusing.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys movies that are so-bad-they’re-hilarious, you may actually find some entertainment value in Old. On paper, the concept sounds promising (the story was taken from a French graphic novel called Sandcastle), but with characters who spout unrealistic and mind-numbingly boring dialogue, who do inexplicably stupid things and give no reason to care about them, Old is nothing more than an absolute mess and a blemish on the career of M Night Shyamalan.

Old opens in cinemas across Australia today, 22 July.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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