Absolutely lives up to its reputation … as one of the worst movies ever made.
The writing is staggeringly awful, with characters introducing themselves by name and profession, entirely unprompted. Not a single line of dialogue feels natural, it’s all hilariously stilted and weird, even coming from notably excellent actors. Characters are so badly written and shot that it’s easy to forget they even exist when they’re not in frame.
Plus, the coverage and camera choices are baffling. Frequently the person speaking will be blocked or half out of frame. Important plot points are delivered off-screen as if hastily added as an afterthought (“The dog has died!”) and then never brought up again. Sometimes the camera will do these long, 360deg tracking shots with literally zero motivation. Nothing is happening that the camera is capturing. Maybe the cinematographer wanted to spice things up, after being sick of shooting the entire thing in mid/closeup.
There’s several shots that just slowly track or zoom into nothing! Three characters talking and the camera just drifts off to empty sky like it can’t be fucked paying attention to them. And why would it? The idea of a beach that makes you old is hilariously dumb in its own right, and the “explanations” never add up to anything.
People rapidly aging—the entire premise of them movie—is wildly inconsistent. Two six year olds rapidly mature into teens, get pregnant and have the child (yes, it’s a weird and gross as it sounds because they’re mentally still basically six) before one man who has been on The Beach That Makes You Old for hours ahead of them even shows a single wrinkle. Oh, and then the baby dies a minute later and is dust by nightfall. Note again that this happens to someone that was literally a child themself barely six hours earlier. Old seems to think hiding people off camera is a clever way to disguise their changes, but all it does is make for a confusing, disjointed mess. The only saving grace is that it’s so bad that it becomes fascinating.
Maybe they could have improved things by having the twist (because of course there’s a twist) be interwoven throughout, ala Cabin in the Woods, but really that’s just putting a bandaid on a whole pile of bandaids. The idea that the beach is inescapable begs the question: well then how do people know it exists?
But asking questions of Old just opens the floodgates of questions on questions on questions. Why doesn’t their food rot immediately? Is the kid autistic? Does he just grow out of it, then? Wouldn’t the rush of hormones into a teenager’s body cause hair to spring up everywhere? How does a cop on holiday somehow mount an international investigation based on some random book he’s given? What happens to the survivors, who have now had 50 years of life taken from them and have to reintegrate into the world with no identification, record of their existence, and what are functionally and experientially the minds of children? How does M Knight get reputable actors to be in this insane trash?
It also continues the tradition of Shyamalan casting himself as an important genius in his own films. It’s really hard to tell if he genuinely thinks he’s making something clever, or if this was just an excuse to write off a trip to the Dominican Republic during the pandemic.
Falls firmly into the category of awful films that are incredibly entertaining for being grossly incompetent at everything they set out to do. A perfect movie to drunk-watch and heckle your outrage at with mates.
Otherwise steer clear.