Tag Archives: m. night shyamalan

Split – Review

1 Feb

Recent years have not been very kind to M. Night Shyamalan, a film maker that was once a titan in the world of suspense thrillers. Since his 2008 bomb, The Happening, things just seemed to be getting worse as time went on. Last year, Shyamalan made a film called The Visit, which I have yet to see but I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard some positive things about it. Now, I can really say without a doubt that Shyamalan is back on course with his newest film, Split. I was hesitant when I first saw the trailer. It looked cool, but trailers can be deceiving. When I left the theater, I was overjoyed that Split was everything I wanted it to be, but it also exceeded those expectations.

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After a small birthday celebration, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her two friends are kidnapped by a seemingly random man named Dennis (James McAvoy). They wake up in a room in an undisclosed location and soon learn that Dennis is not what he first appeared to be. Dennis is also a woman named Patricia who is also a kid named Hedwig who is also over 20 other people. Having suffered with such an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder for so long, he’s gotten quite close with his doctor, Karen (Betty Buckley), who also has theories that these many personalities can give people with this disorder an evolutionary leg up over other people. Back at the girl’s make shift prison, Casey starts to work at better understanding all of this guy’s personalities, but when Hedwig mentions that the Beast is coming for all of them, she begins to formulate new ideas to escape before this terror makes itself known.

I really had such high hopes for this movie. I wanted Shyamalan to show that he still has it in him to make a really kick ass thriller movie, and that’s exactly what I got with Split. I knew I was in for a treat when the credit sequence started. The black background and twisted lettering were great, but what really hooked me was the ominous music that sent a chill down my spine the same way the Signs theme did the first time I saw that movie. The music by West Dylan Thordson is in no way overbearing and it seems to relish in its subtlety. It creeps in whenever the occasion really calls for it which is the mark of a great score. This combined with the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis makes for a great combination. Gioulakis previously worked as cinematographer on It Follows, which was a fantastic looking film, and that same kind of wispy camera movement and confident head on framing makes the same kind of impact in Split.

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The real star of the show here, though, is James McAvoy. McAvoy gives the best performance of his entire career and possibly one of the best performances I’ve seen in a very long time. You know you’re watching a great performance when you no longer see the actor playing the role, but become so convinced that the actor is no longer there and just the character. McAvoy succeeds in doing that in this movie, but what makes it even more impressive is that he makes me believe that a whole lot of characters are real and not being played for a camera. He completely transforms himself into these roles, and each personality has a different stance or walk or way of speaking that makes them feel completely separate from the others. One scene in particular has McAvoy switching between people, and that to me is one of the most impressive parts of the movie. I also have to give credit to Anya Taylor-Joy, who showed that her performance in The Witch wasn’t a fluke and that she is able to maintain a sincere performance despite insanity happening all around her.

While this is truly an incredible movie, there is something I have to get out of the way in terms of negativity. Shyamalan is no stranger to drawn out scenes of exposition, and Split is a major offender. Betty Buckley does a good job playing Dr. Karen, but a lot of her scenes do just exist to explain to the audience what’s going on with one of the personalities or her strange theory that links the whole movie together. To be fair, this is a strange story and exposition is necessary, but there’s so much of it in this movie that it can get kind of distracting. I can definitely forgive this however, because most of the movie is spot on. On the opposite side of the long exposition scenes, there are scenes of visual dread and fear that will be seared into my mind for a long time. There’s one particular moment during a chase towards the end of the movie that is one of the freakiest things I’ve seen in a long time.

Split is a really strong outing by M. Night Shyamalan, and I’m hoping this marks a grand return for someone who has always succeeded in freaking me out and guessing all the way to the end of his movies. This is a really strange film filled with ideas and clues to dig away at to find meaning. It’s also a film that showcases the talents of its actors and behind the camera artists, with James McAvoy really stealing the show with his one of a kind performance. This is a truly suspenseful thrill ride with an ending that will knock your socks off. I highly recommend it.

Final Grade: A

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Lady in the Water – Review

5 Dec

I’m one of those people who defends M. Night Shyamalan, and abstains from mocking him and laughing at his movies. Everything from The Sixth Sense to The Village gets a thumbs up from me. The Happening had potential, but unfortunately flopped, and I chose to stay away from The Last Airbender. What about that little movie that never seems to get brought up, Lady in the Water? Well it’s certainly not perfect or, even great, but watch it with an open mind and try to look beneath the surface and you very well may like the depth that this movie goes and the allegories that it presents.

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Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a nervous handyman at an apartment complex which houses a fair share of strange, yet interesting people. One night, Cleveland finds a mysterious woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) swimming in the apartment’s pool. He learns that she is actually a water nymph called a “narf” from the Blue World with a mission to inspire a writer living in the complex (Shyamalan, himself). This may sound easy, but there is a dangerous wolf-like creature, a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting for an opportunity to lash out at the nymph and prevent her from completing her mission. Cleveland rounds up the tenants of the building to battle the scrunt and help Story get home safe.

Anyone whose really analyzed a Shyamalan movie knows that he is avery religious person. Hell, you don’t even have to try very hard to get the message. Lady in the Water was more of a challenge to find the religious allegories and symbols, and I’m not going to spoil what they are, but this is a fun movie to study more than watch. To anyone who just wants to kill a few hours with this movie may be a little disappointed. Looking at it like a puzzle is more fun.

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The main detraction of this movie is the convulsion of the plot combined with some poor pacing. First off, narf and scrunt are pretty laughable titles, but that’s nit picking. Clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes, I could easily scrub twenty off. Scenes go on for too long or don’t even need to exist. It felt like some scenes would have been better off as a deleted scene on the special features menu. The plot is also a little hard to believe. The people in this complex are more than ready to risk their lives for a supposed water nymph from another world. It would have been more interesting to see Giamatti’s character try to really convince the tenants what was going on. Also, anyone used to cool Shyamalan scares and love his plot twists may be a little disappointed as this movie is lacking both. There’s definitely an air of horror, but not much pay off.

Paul Giamatti is excellent and you can tell that he’s really trying to sell his lines, which is pretty successful most of the time. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job, even though its a pretty one note performance. That stays within the realm of her character, so this isn’t a detraction. The other people in the apartments are less than spectacular, save for a surprising little performance by Jared Harris. He is great but doesn’t really have much to do, which is really disappointing.

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Again, watch this movie with an open mind and really think. Finding all the clues, meanings, and worldly critiques are more interesting than the actual story. I can’t say I totally agree with Shyamalan’s philosophies, but they are intelligent and respectable in their own right and he does a great job at hiding them within the screenplay. Not everything is as obvious as it seems, which is a challenge that the characters in the film even have to overcome.

While Lady in the Water may not be a great movie, I’d still put it in the “good” category. It’s certainly not a bad movie at all, and I feel a lot of the hate towards this movie stem from the bandwagon of mockery that M. Night Shyamalan has to put up with. He’s not a bad film maker, in fact, he’s a very intelligent one and it shows in this film. I recommend it for the intellectual stimulation that is offered and Giamatti’s performance, but not so much for the story and the supporting cast.