“They always underestimate the mastermind.”
19 years after being the only survivor of a train crash and discovering he has superhero-like abilities, David Dunn (Willis) runs his security shop by day and protects the streets of New York at night in a green poncho with the help of his son Joseph (Treat Clark) behind a computer. After Dr Ellie Staple (Paulson) catches Dunn and ‘The Beast’ (McAvoy) they are submitted to a psychiatric hospital where she reveals to them that her line of work is making those who believe they have some sort of superhero-like powers realise that it’s all in their mind and they are in fact no different, or more special than anyone else.
The whole cast absolutely delivers (as you would expect) but James McAvoy absolutely knocks his performance out of the park once again. The way he manages to give each and every single personality in Kevin’s ‘Horde’ their own on-screen presence with a simple change in his posture, or even just the way he looks at another character, quite frankly floored me yet again and steals every scene he’s in. McAvoy has never been better.
It was great to see Spencer Treat Clark reprise his role as Joseph Dunn all these years later – it made the use of some of the deleted scenes from Unbreakable that touch more special and in turn the whole story playing out feels more authentic. Sarah Paulson feels perfectly cast as Dr. Ellie Staple, she keeps the characters (and the story) grounded with her calming & compassionate approach to our three main characters.
Seeing Bruce Willis don his green poncho and cap again was a welcome sight, especially following the tease at the end of Split. Whilst some of the camera work felt a little too close for comfort during some of his more action-filled scenes, it was good to see Brucey kicking some ass. Samuel L Jackson’s return as Elijah Price was nothing less than spine-tingling, his villainous monologues are definitely a highlight of the film for me and I could listen to them all day.
Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography made some of the scenes look like they were panels ripped out of an actual comic book – the scenes in the psychiatric hospital were an utter delight on the eyes, with each room bathed in a single colour. The key colour for each character and how they were distinctively used in throughout the film is a whole star in my rating itself. You only have to look at the marketing (or the image above) to see the trio’s set colours, and when you watch the film you’ll notice the colour schemes in each scene really do stand out depending on which character the focus is on at that time.
The writing is the one major issue I have with this film and what really cost it the fifth star from me. Frankly, Shyamalan doesn’t quite hit the same level as he did 19 years ago with Unbreakable, but I honestly didn’t expect him to – that’s a very high bar! Some of the attempts at humour felt a little forced (we’ll not talk about the addition of ‘salt bae’) and I think the writing would have benefited more from avoiding to try to make us laugh and instead expand on some of the shorter scenes that leave you wanting more. I also think some of the side characters could have done with a little more screentime to help justify their actions/train of thought during some of the more important scenes.
But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy any of the writing. On the whole, this psychological superhero-thriller ticked a lot of boxes in both the film and comic book fan in me. The dialogue between the characters and the message at the core of this story are what really make it special and where Shyamalan has excelled himself.
To delve into plot points and spoil anything would be criminal of me. As you’d expect from Shyamalan, the story constantly keeps you guessing, and going in as blind as possible will benefit what you take away from the film. I think we may have been shown a little too much in the trailers, but that’s neither here nor there now is it. I will say that if you enjoyed Unbreakable then you’re very likely to walk out of the cinema a happy individual.
A fitting finale to round-off a comic book trilogy that no one saw coming back at the beginning of the millennium. Glass masterfully ties Unbreakable and Split together with a big bow, and whilst the first two instalments of Shyamalan’s surprise superhero saga can be enjoyed on their own, this finale definitely benefits from being invested in Elijah Price’ story from the very beginning. Much like a comic book – you can jump in any time and enjoy one, but if you really want to hit its full entertainment potential you start at the beginning.
There has never been a superhero film like this before.
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark