jrydquist’s review published on Letterboxd:
In this mixed bag of a film, Shyamalan makes story & technical decisions that are somewhat puzzling and off-putting, but at the same time there is enough ambition that shines through to craft a tense and unsettling thriller that leaves a visible impact on the viewer.
There is certainly a unique energy around this movie. Everyone I have talked to about it that has not seen it is either eager to know how it is and seems genuinely intrigued by the concept or they have immediately written Shyamalan’s thriller off as “stupid” and refuse to think of it in any other light. And there’s no middle ground. It’s either one or the other.
That is why I have been referring to Old as a “mindset movie.” If you think it sounds like a really interesting idea that will keep you glued to the screen for 108 minutes, then yes, you’re probably going to like it. And if you think the idea of an inescapable island that makes you age rapidly sounds ludicrous and too far-fetched, then yes, you’re probably going to hate it. My best piece of advice is to leave your preconceived notions (good or bad) at the door and go into this movie with as open of a mind as possible and try to see if the movie has a noticeable emotional effect on you.
Personally, I found Old to be quite effective. I only knew what the film was about when I saw it. I hadn’t talked to anyone about it and I hadn’t read any reviews on it. I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of quality. By the end of it though, my biggest takeaway was the uneasy feeling the film gave throughout its runtime and even throughout my drive home. Old features many meticulously crafted scenes that have profound effects on the audience based on the images they show, the information they withhold, and the effect the situation has on the characters. And that is what is so important to films in the horror/thriller genre - how often can you put the audience on the edge of their seats due to the uneasy and unsettling nature of the story and not just loud noises and jump scares?
Even though I found Old to be successful in its ability to leave a lasting impression on me, it is by no means perfect. Shyamalan’s script features too many characters and dialogue that feels like it came from a 12 year old. His techniques with camera are also so ambitious that they are sometimes distracting. M. Night often utilized different techniques to disorient the audience, and some work really well (!), and others do nothing but remove you from the action on screen.
At the end of the day though, the positives outweigh the negatives. For as silly as the film can be from time to time, it is immensely engaging for the rest of the duration.