Old

Old ★★★★★

In their third collaboration, director M. Night Shyamalan and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis offer a seamless merging of their visual sensibilities—this film showcases some of the most exciting camera direction and beautiful compositional intuitions in the auteur's career. In an era so staunchly focused on episodic, brutally message-driven media, it is almost indescribably refreshing to watch a film with a real sense for the power of well-crafted images.

The film's far-reaching thematic ideas are its most interesting, but as with all of the director's previous works, Old taps into our zeitgeist in quietly powerful ways. This story allegorically depicts the experience of pandemic lockdown and a collective sense of distrust and paranoia. It also draws on the seemingly nonstop reports of scientists who are shocked at the speed of climate change's dramatic consequences—our very species' lifeline suddenly, overwhelmingly racing to its finish.

Shyamalan remains one of the most formally rigorous and distinctive filmmakers in contemporary genre cinema, constantly developing novel audiovisual means to deliver affect while also demonstrating finely tuned classicist impulses. For evidence, look at Old: a film that is, more than anything, about cinema's capacity to evaluate mortality (consider the feature-length project of emphasizing condensed time, the rhythm of editing, the build-up and release of withholding and revealing visual information).

Tonally, Old aligns most with the auteur's weirdest previous works (e.g. The Happening and Lady in the Water), namely in the style of dialogue and performance. Shyamalan has a curiously and uniquely scrupulous focus on plot details and thematic clarity, which he often articulates through his characters' information-packed exchanges. Under most circumstances, I prefer narratives whose contradictions and mysteries remain unresolved, but Shyamalan's style is so meticulous and cohesive that I almost always give in to his idiosyncrasies. He's special.

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