M. Night Shyamalan may indeed go down as one of the most interesting film directors of all time. And whether that is a good or bad thing depends on one’s perspective of his continuous usage of supernatural elements and wacky (sometimes terrible) twist endings. The pendulum swings for him one too many times that you lose count and don’t care. His success stems from his brilliant The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Split, and Signs, but his failures torment our eyes from The Last Airbender, After Earth, or The Happening.
The film stars a family of four: Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps), their 11-year-old daughter Maddox (Alexa Swinton), and their 6-year-old son Trent (Nolan River), arriving at a beautiful tropical resort for one last vacation together. Oh yeah, the parents are about to divorce, but they’re withholding the information from their kids until the trip concludes. After settling in for a bit, the hotel manager tells them there’s a fantastic private beach on the other side of the island they can take the family to. Two other families join, including Doctor Charles (Rufus Sewell) and his 6-year-old daughter Kara (Kyle Bailey). Once the families are brought to the area by Shyamalan himself (no, seriously, he has an extended cameo in this work), lots of weird things begin to occur. And very quickly.
A naked and dead blonde body floats right into Trent, the kids become teenagers later, the parents start having health issues and collapse, and even Aaron Pierre is present at the beach too! Then a corpse becomes bones in hours, a pregnancy (and delivery) occurs, and Charles keeps referencing some film that had Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando (the film’s name is The Missouri Breaks).
Many scenes are grotesque and unsettling, and if Shyamalan harrowed down on this more, the film might have become more intriguing. The movie works best when focusing on how young people age extremely quickly and adjust, not a dialogue-heavy dissection. The arbitrary rules of the island would have stayed better left as mysterious, not (easily) decipherable. Shyamalan’s beach day with the cast becomes overloaded and nonstop, like watching an episode of The Twilight Zone with the duration tripled. No spoilers, but the ending twist is lame, which means that the ingenious premise became ruined through production. It seems like we’re old enough as it is to tolerate the other dismal twists Shyamalan has in his back pocket and probably old enough to move on from his mediocre selection of films