Two words – James McAvoy. Words cannot describe this amazing performance.
This is a truly scary thriller, and a fantastic comeback for the director M Night Shyamalan, who has helmed some rather lack-lustre films in recent years. Young girls being held prisoner by a deranged mad man does not seem like a particularly original idea. It becomes much more interesting than the standard plot in two ways – the madman has multiple personalities, and there is a fantasy element concerning the nature of multiple personalities eg that the individual truly becomes each person, physically as much as psychologically.
The cast is great. As well as McAvoy himself, Anya Taylor-Joy as the protagonist of this film, as well as the supporting cast including Betty Buckley, and Haley Richardson were great to watch. The younger cast worked well together and were very believable in their roles. Taylor-Joy particularly, as the protagonist, was excellent and very believable.
The direction was very good. The majority of the film takes place in an underground complex of tunnels, and the claustrophobic nature of the environment adds to the overall atmospheric tension. The low lighting and grimy surroundings enhance this still further.
I have a small gripe about the fantastical concept of the multiple personalities manifesting physically. This makes for a very gripping climax, but, if this is really the case, then why doesn’t the antagonist grow breasts when he is in a female persona, de-age when he is a child and so on. In other words, it’s not entirely consistent in the framework of the story. However, in the face of a very entertaining film, it’s a small hole.
I would like to go back to James McAvoy again. Male performers playing female roles are so very often cliché and over the top. His women characters are neither – his movements and physicality are very real. His child character becomes a little cliché in my opinion, but not so much as to detract from his overall performance. He is scary in this film, and he carries it off to perfection.
I can recommend this film highly. Look for an unexpected but rather interesting cameo at the end (no spoilers!)