Old ★★★★

I think maybe it's finally time to argue that the Shyamalan revival of the last few years has not been revisionism but rather a return to his original reception as a remarkable filmmaker with a refreshingly old-school grasp of the simple mechanics of camera placement and movement and of pacing. This could well be his finest effort, maybe the purest expression of his ability to make the most out of the simplest techniques. The use of long pans and judicious cuts to convey the slurred time of the beach is as basic as it is effective, and it lends a queasy unease to literally every bit of camera movement because you can scarcely bear to see what the camera is going to capture when it gently moves away from and back toward a character. This also has, hands down, the most disturbing scene I can recall in one of Shyamalan's films since Mischa Barton's drooling corpse appeared under the bed in The Sixth Sense.

And through it all, the agony that erupts with each new wrinkle (literal and figurative) as the characters react as passionately to the horrors visited upon strangers as their own families is as moving as the final stretch's slowdown of contemplation, a reminder that whatever his (imo overstated) clunkiness as a dialogue writer, Shyamalan has an excellent ability to write ensembles who are instantly bonded by the inexplicability of their plight, finding strength in unity rather than the more genre-standard friction of mistrust and paranoia. (That the one exception to this rule here is given narrative background for why is yet more proof that the filmmaker sees common cause and empathy as our natural state and not a Herculean effort to achieve.)

Block or Report