M. Night Shyamalan’s latest hits 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray
My favorite thing about Old is its emotional core. There’s a brief moment between two people, an offer of forgiveness that just devastates me when I think about it. In another moment, two characters robbed of a lifetime take a moment to build a sandcastle and do nothing but enjoy each other’s company. Those are the parts that stand out most to me, but there are tons of similar moments throughout M. Night Shyamalan’s latest that strike the right emotional notes. Combined with the usual weirdness and indelible moments that he conjures up, Old is one of his stronger efforts. The premise is tantalizing; tourists looking for a getaway end up at a beautiful beach that causes them to age rapidly. It’s like the old riddle about “what has four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night” come to life. Old is creepy, fun, and beguiling.
Once Shyamalan drops his characters off at their final destination (literally, as the director cameos as the driver for the unlucky guests), the gimmick of the movie takes over and sets everything on edge. The characters quickly establish themselves as a diverse group, in age, ethnicity, professions, and, most importantly, health. As the effects of the beach pile up, it becomes clear how everyone’s story is likely to end, but Shyamalan’s script (which is based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters) finds an array of nerve-jangling paths to get there.
In a film designed to unsettle from stem to stern, one of the more compelling choices is the casting of Trent and Maddox. The characters start the film as young kids and are played by multiple different actors each. Nolan River, Luca Faustino Rodriguez, Alex Wolff, and Emun Elliott portray Trent from 6 years old through middle age. Alexa Swinton, Thomasin McKenzie, and Embeth Davidtz take Maddox from 11 through middle age. The precociousness of the kid versions of the characters is jarring at first. As the characters age, that precociousness fades into a sweet innocence that the older actors lean into. McKenzie and Wolff, both obviously older than the teenagers they’re playing, render teenage awkwardness so perfectly it’ll give viewers the chills. It’s a tactic that is almost widely mocked, but Shyamalan and the actors make the casting work. By the time Elliott and Davidtz get a hold of the characters, they have to combine being young at heart while also having the weight of the world on their shoulders.
The thing that gets me most is just how well the sense of time passing is conveyed; on a parental level, child level, and human level. It’s one of life’s most humbling realizations and when you add it on top of the movie’s visceral thrills, it makes for a potent package, warts and all.
Love him or hate him, Shyamalan knows how to deliver a memorable time at the movies (or at home). I don’t have much patience for the stale debates that make the rounds every time he has a new movie, suffice to say I’m a fan. At the very least, I’ll give each new movie a shot. I don’t care about the misses. I’m in it for the hits. Old is a hit for me. Messy and successful in typical Shyamalan ways, but always chasing something compelling.
Among the extras on the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray copies provided for review include 8 minutes worth of deleted scenes. The elisions are all cosmetic, emphasizing points the movie proper makes quite clear. “Shyamalan Family Business” is a fun bit of fluff highlighting the next generation of creatives. Ishana Shyamalan was the second unit director and Saleka Shyamalan wrote a key song for the film. With family being a major theme of M. Night’s work, it’s endearing to see them working together and hear how much it means to them as individuals and a family. The other features, “All the Beach is a Stage,” “Nightmares in Paradise,” and “A Family In the Moment” delve into the pros and cons of shooting on location in the Dominican Republic.
Old is available now on 4K UltraHD, Blur-ray, and Digital
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