(director/writer: M. Night Shyamalan; screenwriters: based on the graphic novel “Sandcastle” by Pierre-Oscar Lévy & Frederick Peeters; cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis; editor: Brett M. Reed; music: Trevor Gureckis; cast: Gael García Bernal(Guy),Vicky Krieps (Prisca), Rufus Sewell (Charles, doctor), Ken Leung (Jarin), Alex Wolff (Trent Aged 15), Abbey Lee (Chrystal), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Patricia), Eliza Scanlen (Kara Aged 15), Kathleen Chalfant (Agnes), Gustaf Hammarsten (Resort Manager), Nolan River (Trent Aged 6), Mikaya Fisher (Kara),  Francesca Eastwood (Madrid),  Emun Elliott (Adult Trent), Aaron Pierre (Mid-Sized Sedan), Alexa Swinton Maddox Aged 11), Thomasin McKenzie (Maddox Aged 16), Embeth Davidtz (Adult Maddox), M. Night Shyamalan (Van Driver); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers; M. Night Shyamalan, Ashwin Rajan, Marc Bienstock: Universal Pictures; 2021)

If you can stomach its anti-science beliefs there’s a slight chance you might even like this sort of undemanding nonsense.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 50-year-old M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”/”Signs”), the writer and director, has a Hitchcock-like cameo as the hotel van driver in his latest. He adapts this strange mystery tale from the 2013 graphic novel “Sandcastle,” by the French writer Pierre Oscar Lévy and the Swiss illustrator Frederik Peeters, and films it as a hokum-filled existentialist parable. If you can stomach its anti-science beliefs there’s a slight chance you might even like this sort of undemanding nonsense.

A smarmy Euro resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) promises some family vacationers a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” in a resort on a gorgeous secluded beach in the Dominican Republic. At the beach, we see a trio of vultures atop a tree take off in the air upon the arrival of guests at the resort (which is taken as an ominous sign of dark things to come).

An argumentative stressed couple, the insurance actuary, Guy (Gael García Bernal), and his history museum curator wife, Prisca (Vicky Krieps), who found the trip on the Internet, are vacationing there with young children–the six-year-old Trent (Nolan River) and 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton).

Also at the resort are a spoiled trophy wife (Abbey Lee) of an arrogant racist surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his elderly mother (Kathleen Chalfant) and their tiny daughter Kara (Mikaya Fisher). Also there is the well-known rapper (Aaron Pierre) who wanders around the beach with a nose bleed that won’t stop. Soon joining this group are the wealthy rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) and the epilepsy suffering psychotherapist Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her nurse-husband Jiran (Ken Leung).

Danger lurks when Mid-Sized Sedan’s blonde date turns up on the beach nude and dead after going for a swim.

Faced with no ways to communicate (there’s no cell service) to the outside world, the problem becomes that everyone there can’t leave and are ageing at the rate of several months an hour.

The plot gets water-logged as it gets bogged down with several desperate escape attempts, as the strangers on the beach must band together to overcome this inexplicable phenomenal experience or perish.

The aged 16 girl Maddox (Thomasin McKenzie) and the 15-year-old boy Trent (Alex Wolff), the children of Guy and Prisca as teens, excel in their role of rapidly ageing children.

But it annoyingly comes with Shyamalan’s usual need for trick endings, and in this case he also offers an unneeded explanation for the plot (which kills the surprises of its unusual story). Even as it presents a curious Twilight Zone premise, it keeps things shallow, filled with hokum, bad dialogue and an underdeveloped story-line, as it’s more about shocks over depth. The result is a pic that’s well-acted, visually stunning and entertaining, but as empty as a gimmicky film can be if that’s all there is to it.