If you land a room at the Anamika Resort, what with its sun-kissed beaches, beautiful vistas and luxurious rooms, you can count yourself as either very rich or very lucky.
For the Cappa family, it was the latter.
Prisca Cappa happened to fill out a sweepstakes entry she got at the drugstore and nearly fell over when the notice online said they had won. Now she and her husband Guy are sipping specially made resort drinks, and her kids, Maddox and Trent, are squealing and giggling while chasing each other on the beach.
By breakfast of their second day in paradise, the Cappas’ good luck pops up once more. A smiling resort manager stops by their table and offers them a trip to a private beach on a secluded side of the island. “I only recommend it to certain guests,” he whispers with a wink. And the Cappas jump at the chance.
It’s just them and another family who clamber into the small resort bus for the trip (another lucky couple come a bit later in the morning). And as they near the special spot—chained off and labeled Nature Reserve—the bus occupants all realize that this is indeed a rare and wonderful treat.
The beach area is an incredible stretch of pristine sand, completely surrounded by enormous rock formations and the clearest, bluest water and sky they’ve ever seen. You can only reach the beach itself by edging your way throuh a narrow cravace in the rocks: a short trip on foot that feels snatched right out of an exotic romance novel.
There’s only one other person on the entire beach—a man who 11-year-old Maddox quickly recognizes as the famous rapper Mid-Sized Sedan. That unexpected celebrity treat alone just transformed this into something beyond imagination for her.
But a number of things about this beach are beyond imagination—stuff of nightmares, not dreams. There’s actually something very strange happening to the people there at this very moment—cellular shifts and changes that they don’t even feel. In fact, it’s not until a dead naked body floats into the cove that people really start sitting up to take notice that something strange is happening.
By the time 6- and 11-year-old Trent and Maddox suddenly begin looking like they’ve aged to 11 and 16, everyone is convinced that they need to get off this bizarre beach. But by then they’ve already realized that no one can leave. Go too far in any direction and you pass out cold.
It becomes obvious that they’re not the first people that have been deposited on this stretch of sand and surf. Was it on purpose? Will they all grow quickly old and die here? And how much time do they actually have?
Prisca Cappa suddenly realizes that she isn’t very lucky at all.
As people on the beach age very quickly, that acceleration and the growing danger puts life itself, and the decisions we make in that life, in a new perspective. Prisca and Guy were actually moving toward separating before taking the trip, for instance. But as the day on the beach winds on and life runs by them so quickly, they see the foolishness of their former arguments and the value of the relationships they treasure, including their own.
We also see that people’s natures become more pronounced with age and danger. One individual, seemingly suffering from dementia, becomes more and more hateful. Others become more prone to nurture and comfort people in their small group. And some are willing to risk everything to save these rapidly aging vacationers. An appearance-driven woman talks about a past love that she tossed aside because he was not handsome, but now that she is aging and changing herself, her thoughts turn to his sincerity and loving nature.
There are no real discussions of faith here. But, without giving too much away, I can say that the film does raise questions of philosophical ethics, wondering if it is moral to sacrifice a few for the greater good of all. And Old decidedly lands on the side of the sanctity of life.
A young woman on a beach, begins stripping off her clothes. We see her in her underwear while a man watches from behind her. Then we take on his perspective and watch as she removes the rest of her clothes and walks into the surf. (She’s fully nude from the rear, with some side breast.) Later, that woman washes up on shore, dead. We see her naked from the back once more as someone drags her ashore, but then she’s kept out of the camera’s view.
In other scenes, a number of women wear bikinis on the beach. A trim wife flaunts her bikini-clad form and flirts with a waiter in front of her husband. Young Maddox grows from a tween into a full grown woman who has to change into a rather revealing bikini.
Six-year-old Trent quickly ages, too. And he and a girl named Kara become close as their bodies and minds quickly age. We see them talking and touching hands, off by themselves. Then they rejoin the others and Kara is obviously very pregnant. Prisca is aghast that Trent didn’t remember what she had told him about boy and girl sexuality. And he is surprised because, “It was only one time.”
We find out that Prisca was having an affair with another man. (Though we never see them together.)
A number of people die on the beach, some from the natural effects of accelerated time, others from murderous intent.
A doctor named Charles, for instance, is a man curdled by his own racism, barely hidden in the best of times. With the onset of dementia, however, that foul nature is set loose. He attacks several people with a knife. He attacks a Black man, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest. We see the bloody wounds and dead body. He also slashes both Guy and Prisca repeatedly on the arms and back, but because of the accelerated time those slashed open wounds instantly heal.
In saner moments, Charles removes a rapidly growing tumor from someone’s side. But because of the instant healing skin, two people must hold the cut flesh open while Charles eventually slices out the tumor—that’s now grown to the size of a cantaloupe. (We see the initial incision, but most of the actual operation takes place out of the camera’s view.)
Two different people try to swim out into the ocean, but both black out and drown, and their dead bodies float back to shore. Because of a blood disease, a man has a perpetually bloody nose. We see a woman have several grand mal seizures. One particularly violent episode leaves her dead and foaming at the mouth. An elderly woman dies of a heart attack.
People black out from “intense cranial pressure.” A pet dog dies. Someone passes out and falls from a great height to her death. (We don’t see the body hit the beach below.) A young woman gives birth, but the baby dies very quickly. Someone has their clothing caught on a coral outcropping and almost drowns.
A woman with a calcium deficiency breaks her arm, but it instantly heals in a crooked twist. She begins flailing around, breaking all her arms and legs repeatedly against rocky surfaces and healing instantly—twisting herself into a contorted knot—before dying. A man is slashed with a rusty knife and the poison quickly spreads through his body, killing him in an anguish. We find out that hundreds of people have died on the beach in the past.
There’s one lone and almost shocking f-word in the context of the dialogue that sports a few uses of “d–n,” one use of “h—” and several misuses of God’s name. (God and “d–n” are combined once.)
We find out that people are given certain experimental drugs mixed into alcoholic beverages. We see several people imbibing. We see a lab full of chemicals and drugs.
We see the bones of a body that has quickly decomposed in a matter of hours. Prisca and Guy argue loudly in an adjoining room. It’s obvious that those arguments disturb their kids. That’s reinforced when later, a suddenly matured and angry Trent declares that he wants to marry Kara, “And we’re never gonna yell at each other and we are never getting divorced!”
Director M. Night Shyamalan has made no secret of his inspirations for the movie Old. One was a graphic novel called “Sandcastle,” that sported a very similar family-holiday-on-a-mysterious-beach storyline. And the second was a TV show that most everyone knows. “When I read the graphic novel, I thought ‘Oh, this is a long form Twilight Zone,’ Shyamalan said in a GamesRadar interview. And that influence is readily apparent.
There’s an eerie strangeness here that grows out of an otherwise mundane trip to the beach–stretching its creepy flippers and water wings and getting darker and more bizarre as the story unfolds. But the movie is more than just its horrifying conceit. Old asks questions about the things that drive us: our virtues and vanities, our passions and secreted-away poisons.
Some might look at this pic and balk at what they see as “anti-science” grumbles. Others will step away with thoughts of family and the precious need to make better choices humming in their brains. There’s definitely more to this creative pic than first meets the eye.
That’s not to say that Old is perfect. The movie’s fleshy moments and bloody things will mark this beach as off limits for many curious families. But for those who deign to brave the perils and let their feet sink into the surf-soaked sand, it’s an interesting excursion. Or you might say, It’s a dimension not only of sight and sound … but of mind.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.