Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley
Director: M Night Shyamalan
M Night Shyamalan hates critics. He doesn’t understand why they are so mean to him, and how they can’t see that he’s a genius. They must be jealous of him.
Yes, that must be the problem…
Personally, I try to never miss a new one of his films when it comes out. He never fails to Shyamalan the shit out of a concept that could have been truly awesome. The laughs usually kick in somewhere in the second act. Go on, get the pop corn.
The opening sequence of the film is really good. We meet three girls, two are close friends, Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula), and one who was pity invited to the event, Casey (Taylor-Joy). They head to the car with Claire’s Dad, and they get in, while he fiddles around putting things in the trunk. They don’t realise that a sinister stranger has gotten into the car until it’s too late… Great opener, right?
They’ve been kidnapped by a man (McAvoy) with DID, that’s Dissociative Identity Disorder, what is generally called split personalities. He has 23 of them. And his personalities are talking about a very sinister sounding 24th, who they want to unleash.
On the one hand, it’s a cool idea for a thriller. On the other, it’s pretty insensitive. I’m not one who likes to jump on the “I’m so offended” band wagon, because I have a life, but Shyamalan’s point in this film is that people with severe mental illnesses will become superheroes or otherwise have ties to the supernatural. And he also seems to make the point that having intense trauma in your life will make you a better survivor, possibly through the mental illnesses that trauma causes. (Statistics would suggest otherwise, but this is a movie blog, so I’m not going to go into that).
OK, so, we know that it’s Shyamalan, that it’s going to have a solid opening, and a good first third and it will descend into the sillies about half way through. Well, it doesn’t disappoint, and because of that, it’s quite entertaining. James MacAvoy is really wonderful, all his personalities are distinct and characterised beautifully, and he must have jumped at the chance to show off his acting chops here. It’s a great role. Anya Taylor-Joy, who seems to be the go-to girl now for teen horror roles, is very good as the damaged outsider who might just have the right survival skills. And Richardson and Sula are really sweet as the softer part of the film, the undamaged by life, innocent and really very nice friends. Which makes them sound a bit bland, but they’re really not.
The only other character to mention is the psychologist (Buckley), who is necessary perhaps for exposition, but is the most naive, idiotic character in the whole cast. I think she wins the award from me for best for laughs, though I think she’s meant to be insightful or something. Who knows.
Anyway, Shyamalan is all about the twist and the one in this movie had me in stitches the most. Really, M Night? OK, go on then, why not. Oh and that lil zinger at the end… Geez Louise. This film ticks all the boxes on your Shyamalan Bingo card, including his arrogant, Hitchcock copying cameo. And the most important box it ticks? It’s kinda fun watching him screw up what is basically a cool premise for a film. The good stuff here is really good, and the bad stuff, while ruining the film, kind of makes it as well.
See It If: oh, you have to see it, it’s wonderfully daft!