You might believe that Joker was the first big-bucks movie to focus on a supervillain. Not so. M Night Shyamalan got there before, with Split in 2019 starring James McAvoy. But Split, we soon learned, wasn’t actually a standalone story – instead it was a sequel to one of Shyamalan’s much earlier films which starred Bruce Willis. And then in 2019 along came a final (…well… possibly) episode to tie all the loose ends together.
What started as a standalone superhero flick was suddenly reinvented following unexpected profits and became the first act in a trilogy. There was — eventually — a sequel, and the final part came out last year. Time to watch Unbreakable again, then.
Bruce Willis acting is probably the first surprise. He’s good at it, too. Who knew? Samuel L Jackson has always been a batty entertainer, so no surprises when he rattles out another fine performance. And the story is fun. Our hero, Bruce, has no idea that he has superpowers — easy to overlook, as we all know. Samuel L suspects that those powers are resident in Bruce, and proves it. Cue tension, darkness and many turns and twists. It’s very enjoyable, not least considering that it’s 18 years old.
And of course the director / writer is M Night Shyamalan, who is certainly most knowing of his onions, and shoves the entire show along in a gripping way, despite the seemingly inevitable and large stretchy domestic bliss bits — they’re actually quite uncomfortable, so maybe he’s forgiven.
It’s good. Well worth a watch.
The second part of M Night Shyamalan’s ‘superhero’ trilogy, Split was quite poorly marketed as a straightforward, slash-n-stab, horror flick for its theatrical release.
It’s actually much more sophisticated than that, and showcases several utterly stunning performances by James McAvoy – who really does play half a dozen characters in great depth, switching between them with convincing dexterity. Genius, that bloke. You never know whether to be terrified of his characters or give them a big hug. Which is, of course, the point.
Split works on three levels, then. It IS a nail-biting psychological thriller of considerable tension… and it’s also an intriguing exploration of the possible life of someone with an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder… and it’s the second act of a three-parter, completed by Glass.
You really need to have watched Unbreakable recently to get the full effect of Split. Especially the final scene, which is a woo-hoo moment if ever I watched one.
Glass pulls together lead characters from Unbreakable and Split, and produces what feels like an original take on the superhero notion. It’s not easy to discuss without spoiling the plot — and especially the end, which is both neat and clever, despite what the inevitable real critics say.
The three ‘heroes’ from the two earlier movies are all caught and locked up in the same institution. Their weaknesses are used to help retain them, while a shrink attempts to explain to them that they’re not superheroes, cos superheroes do not — can not exist. What could possibly go wrong?
Watch it and you’ll see…
Although none of these films stands alone as an outstanding effort like The Sixth Sense, if you watch them as three components of a trilogy them they’re far more satisfying than in their individual episodes. They push the boundaries of the superhero movie further than Brightburn – even if they don’t quite manage to feel quite as relevant as Joker. But if you want to be absorbed by some compelling storytelling and perhaps McAvoy’s career-defining performance, then line ’em up on your streaming service…