Split


Viewed – 06 June 2017  online-rental

It’s probably safe to say that acclaimed director M Night Shyamalan has been off his game for a few years, with such poorly received movies as The Last Airbender and The Happening.  However recently there seems to have been a slight return to form, what with the well received The Visit and now this much talked about thriller.  James McAvoy plays a disturbed man who suffers from dissociative personality disorder and claims to have 23 different personalities all vying for attention.  Told with a combination of visits to his psychiatrist and the kidnapping of three young women by his more sociopathic personalities, this sets the stage for a clever little thriller, held together by a demanding and often eye-opening performance.

Split

The initial impression I got from the trailer (and I tend to avoid trailers for the most part) wasn’t all that positive despite plenty of good word-of-mouth.  McAvoy you see delivers a myriad of different performances here, some menacing, others it has to be said rather absurd and silly (do we really need him to do a rather dodgy impression of a nine year old boy, complete with a lisp?) and less said about the campy female personality the better.  Which is a shame as Shyamalan’s direction is tight and atmospheric, full of eerie camera movement not unlike something from a Hitchcock movie and great use of claustrophobic locations.  The three turns from the kidnapped girls are also good, especially from The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy (an actress who continues to impress).  However a final twist involving a 24th personality throws the movie into schlocky horror, doing away with it’s otherwise semi-realistic tone … and well, we get a final scene that adds a connection to an earlier Shyamalan movie that just felt forced.

However with what has to be said is a colourful and impressive turn from McAvoy (his transitions from certain personalities are damn freaky) and bags of tension I still found myself entertained.  Just sad the idea promised much more than the movie could eventually deliver.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Unbreakable


Viewed – 04 May 2016  Blu-ray

I’m on a bit of a M Night Shyamalan binge of late and so we come to his acclaimed thriller blending comic book myths with mystery.  Starring Bruce Willis as the soul survivor of a train crash who comes under the watchful eye of comic book aficionado Samuel L Jackson who believes Willis may have super powers.  This one’s a strange beast and has a pretty weird vibe through out, with performances not unlike a David Lynch film.  Everyone here apart from the principle leads talks to each other like they are under some hypnotic spell or in a dream.

unbreakable willis

Slow burning and certainly intriguing, with some imaginative camera work … yet this was more ‘er…what is going on?’ than ‘ooh…what’s going to happen?’, and what seems like a low budget lets this down when actually getting to see said train crash would have given this viewer something to latch on to.  One scene especially felt off, with Willis’ son pointing a gun at his father in the belief he’s indestructible; it’s both over-acted and comes out of nowhere and makes the kid look a complete nutter.  Add to this sleepy support from Robin Wright as Willis’ estranged wife and it’s left up to Jackson’s complex ‘Mister Glass’ to save the day.  Here at least Jackson makes for a foreboding and fascinating presence with a tragic back-story, but comes off as a bit of a wack-job from the off with a series of crazy theories.  Willis does manage to carry the film well and is emotional and for the most part convincing, but at times goes along with things a bit too easily.

M Night Shyamalan’s movie can’t escape the shadow of The Sixth Sense with a similar but less understandable weird atmosphere, and a twist towards the end that whilst a shock, also comes off as ‘why?’.  With a bit more ambition this could have been a real gem as the idea has plenty of potential but fails to make the most of it, concluding with a solid final act that’s all too little too late.

The Blu-ray suffers from some smudgy black levels and a loss of detail to distant shots.  Close up detail fairs better however and the blue-tinged colour palette still looks very effective.   James Newton Howard’s eerie score is brought to life in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as uncompressed PCM 5.1 and dialogue is sharp and there’s decent ambient effects to the soundtrack, if a little subdued.  Extras however make up for any shortcomings on the movie with two in-depth docs ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘comic books and superheroes’ as well as some shorter featurettes and a gimmicky multi-angle section.  Again, like Sixth Sense no commentary from Shyamalan which would have been welcome.  Overall, not a bad all-round package for a fun if rather overrated experience.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

The Sixth Sense


Viewed –  April 2016  Blu-ray

Director M Night Shyamalan has certainly fallen from grace since the acclaim he garnered for this much loved supernatural drama.  Sitting down to watch it, I felt nostalgic for just how much buzz the director’s name created for a short while there.  Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist whose latest case involves a nine year old boy, Cole (Haley Joel Osment) whose bullied, an outcast in his community and a constant concern for his single mother, played by Toni Collette.  However Cole hides a secret; the fact he can actually see the dead walking around and often communicating with him, and this is something Bruce Willis tries to help him with.

The Sixth Sense

A slow burning but gripping with a stunning performance from Osment, truly one of the most gifted child actors of his generation.  He carries the movie brilliantly, proving both vulnerable, likeable and heart-breaking.  His plight of living with an ability that he can’t tell anyone about, least of all his mother is really incredible to bestow on the shoulders of such a young character … but Osment makes it utterly real.  Willis is also very good and conflicted, in a marriage that has obviously seen better days and fighting against his own demons.  Collette also gets time to shine and is especially good in the scenes with her and Osment (that scene in the car towards the end almost had me in tears).

bruce-willis-and-haley-joel-osmentThis is a very sad movie.  It’s bleak and moody and ominous, and also manages to be genuinely creepy, with Cole’s various encounter’s with different restless spirits.  M Night Shyamalan’s direction is faultless, full of little details and secrets – and that much talked about twist, which I won’t spoil is possibly one of the best.  I can totally understand why this movie is so regarded as it get’s everything right, standing out as a classic example of acting, writing and film-making coming together perfectly.  One of those movies everyone should see at least once … but to get the most out of it, see it again to view the movie in a different light.

The image quality is a little soft but suits the tone of the movie and colours, which are deliberately muted, especially help the use of red stand out.  Close-ups and street scenes are detailed though and overall it’s a good presentation.  Sound is also pleasing with clear dialogue, but apart from some decent ambient surround effects, is not about to be a 5.1 showcase.  Extras are plentiful however with a lengthy documentary ‘Reflections From The Set’ and a further doc on the supernatural called ‘Between Two Worlds’.  There’s also some shorter featurettes and a couple of trailers.  The lack of a commentary for this one is disappointing, but overall pretty good treatment for a genuine classic.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(The Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

DEVIL


Viewed – 28 September 2010  Cinema

I wouldn’t say I’m scared of elevators. although I’ve not really had much experience with them, but either way I can’t say I’d enjoy being stuck in one when it breaks down.  Let alone in a 40 story building.  This unique stab at supernatural horror finds five seemingly unrelated strangers stuck in an elevator, who soon attract the attention of the security who are able to see them via the camera.  Yet something is seriously not right about this particular elevator as strange things start to happen, people hallucinate and creepy faces are glimpsed on the Camera feed.

Now although this idea (based on a story by M Night Shyamalan)  seems wafer thin on paper, there is plenty of depth as we follow the plight of these people and the Cop who is called in to help, who’s nursing a few emotional wounds of his own.  As things go from bad to worse and it becomes evident that evil forces may be up to no good, I found myself gripped and quite freaked out at times.  Acting-wise the familiar but mostly unknown cast all deliver credible, convincing performances, and the situation never gets boring as you watch to find out what will happen next, and to whom.  Yet this all leads up to an ending that, without spoiling anything, left me feeling a bit let down, like the writers just lost their nerve in the closing moments.  A shame because otherwise this is a creepy, effective and clever little movie.

Verdict:  3 /5