This review contains slight spoilers for Unbreakable and Split.
M. Night Shyamalan has had a bit of a roller-coaster career. Going from the dizzy heights of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs to becoming an industry laughing stock with the likes of The Last Airbender and The Happening. With 2016’s Split having revitalized his career and with its post credit’s teaser/twist providing a backdoor sequel to one of his biggest hits, the one time The Next Spielberg (lol) is back to close his so-called Eastrail 177 Trilogy (named after the train that derailed in Unbreakable).
James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson all return to their respective roles from the previous two films and are joined by Sarah Paulson (always have a Sarah Paulson in your movie). Also returning are Anya Taylor-Joy from Split and Spencer Treat Clark reprising his role as Joseph Dunn. Our three main characters find themselves in a mental institute under the care and treatment of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson) who is trying to convince them that their apparent superpowers are all in their heads and the supposed amazing feats (and crimes) they have accomplished can be explained away by science.
The film positions itself as a counterbalance to the wave of superhero movies currently dominating the cinematic landscape (there’s even a sly Marvel joke). Asking questions about the relevance and need of superheroes in today’s world and if a reality with costumed crime fighters and guardians would really be such a good thing. Shyamalan has clearly put some thought into this subject. After all, he claims he has been thinking of an Unbreakable sequel for nearly two decades.
The film is a slow burner, getting into the heads of our three characters and giving us another opportunity to let McAvoy go off on one and act everyone out of the room. Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Hoard and the 25 other personalities stuck in his head are a joy to watch and McAvoy is clearly having a blast. Willis (David Dunn/The Overseer) puts in a rare effort this time although doesn’t get much to do and Jackson (Mr Glass/The Mastermind) is calmly restrained as the villain of the piece.
I won’t give away the finale that a lot of people have expressed disappointment with but personally I enjoyed it and found it a fitting closer to the trilogy. It also has a spin on the classic Shyamalan twist, a twist within a twist! It isn’t perfect by any means. In particular Anya Taylor-Joy’s character felt underwritten and there are several plot holes which could have been easily fixed with another draft. However, it certainly doesn’t deserve the critical bashing it’s received. Hopefully Shyamalan can continue this current run of creative and commercial success.