Dissecting M. Night Shyamalan’s career

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Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense
Photo: Spygate Entertainment (Getty Images)

M. Night Shyamalan is one of the few Hollywood directors working today who qualifies as a household name. But what reputation does that name now carry?Since bursting into the public eye with his third feature, the Oscar-nominated box-office phenomenon The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has experienced ups and downs, disappointments and comebacks. Today, he’s sometimes treated like an industry punchline and punching bag, even as his movies continue to do good business and satisfy a faithful critical fanbase. On this week’s episode of Film Club, A.A. Dowd and Katie Rife discuss the career of this divisive blockbuster auteur, whose latest thriller, Old, is now playing in theaters.

Here’s what Dowd had to say in his written review of Old:

In the two decades since The Sixth Sense made him a household name, Shyamalan hasn’t much improved at writing dialogue. His characters still speak a stilted language of blunt emotional declaration and corny one-liners, periodically sounding like aliens approximating human interaction. But in Old, the anti-naturalistic clang of the exchanges eventually starts to contribute to the general nightmare vibe of Shyamalan’s scenario. At the manager’s suggestion, the family ends up decamping for a private swim on the other end of the island, joining a small group of fellow guests that includes a racist surgeon (Rufus Sewell), his bombshell wife (Abbey Lee), their grade-school-aged daughter (Kylie Begley), a SoundCloud rapper (Aaron Pierre), and a few others. “Something is going on with time on this beach,” one of them dimly, belatedly deduces, long after the adults start collecting wrinkles and their children start racing towards puberty at world-record speed.

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