M. Night Shyamalan’s new horror film

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The Sixth Sense the director still has a sense of sinister plans, but is strangely invested in making the audience care about his cardboard characters.
Photo: Universal images

M. Night Shyamalan can make a photo of palm trees spooky just by the way he moves a camera. Old opens with slingshots dancing in front of a bright sky, then passes to vacationing family on the road below, as if humans are already an afterthought, fodder for the conceptual horror that awaits them. Shyamalan has always been excellent on a granular level, making shots that put you in the characters’ state of mind or, in the case of this new movie, decidedly outside of it. The sixth sense will run in sympathetic terror down the hall after Haley Joel Osment retires, only to back up and show us what he sees – the bathrobe ghost starting after him – before closing his blanket fort. Panels holds Joaquin Phoenix’s face, moving with him as he tries to get a better view of what he doesn’t yet know is an alien on the roof, only for the creature to leap off the screen, out of sight of the people. characters like as well as this subjective lens, leaving a rustle of corn and a creaking swing in its wake.

On the other hand, Old makes a repeating pattern of the camera pans horizontally over the beach to which the figures are stuck, and treating their faces with the same indifference as the landscape. It’s done so well that it takes a while to admit how disappointing the film is, caught between the brutal exercise and the metaphor for the fleeting nature of time. He doesn’t care about his characters, but tries to pretend at the end, in what feels like a blatant lack of nerve. These are barely characters, more like a collection of professional titles, with Trent (Nolan River) the family’s 6-year-old baby having a convenient precocious habit of asking everyone he meets what is their name and occupation are. Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is a psychologist, while her husband, Jarin (Ken Leung), is a nurse. Aaron Pierre plays a rapper whose name is, dramatically, Mid-Sized Sedan, and Rufus Sewell is Charles, a doctor. Charles’ wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) is unable to describe her career, although an accurate description would be something like “Trophy Woman”. Their daughter, Kara (Kyle Bailey), is with them, as is Charles’ mother, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant).

Trent’s older sister Maddow (Alexa Swinton) is 11 and not yet of working age (the kids are played by other actors as they grow older), but their parents, Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps), talk about their work like some people talk about their astrological signs. “You always think of the past! You working in a fucking museum!Guy yells at Prisca early on, and later explains his take on the world to another character, noting that as an actuary he calculates risk. This simple picture book shortcut to showcasing an ensemble would seem less awkward if the intention was only to kill the characters one by one, but Old intends to try and get her audience to care about her main quartet and how Guy and Prisca teetered on the brink of divorce. The beach vacation is meant to be a three-day respite, a way to avoid thinking about the couple’s impending separation, as well as the supposedly benign abdominal tumor that Prisca recently discovered.

A day after arriving at the resort island (“Can you believe I found this in line? ”Prisca worryingly jubilant), the manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) offers the family a chance to visit a secluded beach on the nearby nature reserve, an opportunity he claims to only give to the guests he loves. should be clear that something is wrong from the moment the Impossible Charles and his family get into the van, but the group heads to the beach under the direction of their driver, played by Shyamalan himself. as the man responsible for bringing the victims to the deadly beach and then observing them from afar, the character is clearly a sort of director’s replacement. slowly realize that they are getting older about two years an hour, there is a shyness in the movie that makes it maddening. Old is adapted from Sand castle, a graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters that has a more ambiguous slant, and the film never reconciles its desire for bodily horror with its belated impulse for its characters to try to reconcile their differences and reflect on what is really important.

There’s an imaginative horror death, an emergency surgery case, and a worryingly accelerated pregnancy, but there are also long and tiresome panics of characters who don’t have the dimension to deserve them. Shyamalan, who is once again working towards bigger budget productions since escaping movie jail in 2015 Visit, feels caught between the more emotional movies he used to make and the leaner, meaner movies he’s made more recently. His cinema cannot compensate for the fact that Old oscillates indecisively between the two halves of his career, unable to move in either direction.

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