Old

Old ★★★★

M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller is a film that is driven to maximise the audience's sense of discomfort at every turn. Once the film's central cast arrive at the centre of the action, there's a sustained feeling of sickly unease right until the climax. Shyamalan achieves this in the way every new shot appears to be blocked in a completely unique way, accompanied by camera movements that surprise at every turn. It's this intentional chaos to the way that the technology has been utilised which does an immense degree of heavy lifting to make this feel so oppressive. The performances are all similarly off-kilter, operating in a less-than traditionally linear fashion to maximise this sense that the characters subconsciously recognise that something is amiss from the beginning.

Under the skillfully executed tension that brings to mind Shyamalan's previous best moments, the film also becomes surprisingly tender. It does this by using the horrific story setup to portray a macro-level view of the human experience, that of fighting tooth and nail to understand your place in the world whilst being frightened of that which you don't understand. Because this is human life in rapid motion, the moments of horror, gentleness, humour, and discovery are encountered at a breakneck pace, compounding the audience's sense of whiplash but mirroring the way we look back on previous years to strangely powerful effects.

I had to sit with this for a little bit before really coming around to it, with my end feeling being one of deep respect for what Shyamalan has produced here. It's a strangely meta narrative about how the medium of film itself can be a form of life-in-pictures, and how racing through so many emotions and experiences within a short timespan is something worth interrogating when it comes to film. Beyond these slightly weighty readings, the film also delivers moment to moment thrills like few other film-makers can match.

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