The latest from M. Night Shyamalan continues his kind of come-back and steers clear of the disaster zone he’s fallen into with a few of his films along the way. It is pretty Shyamalan-esque, but its twist (because of course there is one) will be a huge revelation to some, but non-existent and confusing to others.
The film follows three teenage girls who are kidnapped by James McAvoy’s Kevin, a character with 23 personalities, and a sinister motive. It is a thriller mixed with horror, but still manages to contain some truly comedic moments.
It elevates itself from its classic ‘kidnapping’ premise through its twists and turns and the implications of Kevin’s condition, but also through its examination of its antagonist’s backstory and life. It helps to paint a more dimensional character than just the ‘villain’, separating it from just another film on a list of standard horrors.
The film maintains your intrigue, as it’s never quite clear where it’s going, keeping you guessing and seeking to understand the story. However, at the end it winds up and down sporadically, so you’re never quite sure when it’s going to end either. Intrigue is also held as the film explores its antagonist’s message that the more we have suffered, the stronger we are, as well as his slightly more sinister idea that those who have suffered less are less deserving – the motivation at the heart of his plan.
McAvoy is fantastic in his multi-role, making it clear at all times which personality he is embodying (even transition between them on screen at times), and is not overtly reliant on costume or props to hint. We only spend significant times with about four or five of his personalities, but each are fully realised terrifically. The three girls are also great in their roles, with Anya Taylor-Joy as the most prominent and complex of the group.
Now, of course, as this is a Shyamalan film, there is a plot twist, but not in the sense you might expect. Don’t necessarily go in waiting for or trying to figure out the twist, as it doesn’t appear in the form you might anticipate. It is also a twist that rewards those more familiar with Shyamalan’s work, and may leave other audience members a little baffled.
It is a film a little reminiscent of last year’s releases, Don’t Breathe and The Conjuring 2, but still entirely its own thing. It is a solid film, but not exactly the most memorable, but can certainly be relied on for some great thrills and entertainment.