M. Night Shyamalan is a writer/ director from Philadelphia. Known for movies with schocking twist endings; his credites include: The Village, Signs, The Last Airbender and Stuart Little.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of his work, though I remember enjoying Marty McFly voice a mouse back when I was a kid. Some of you may think that I just haven’t seen the right” M. Night movie. The ones I have seen were: Unbreakable, Split, After Earth, The Last Airbender, Devil, Stuart Little, and most recently; Split. If you’d like to see my take on Devil, you can read it here: https://www.thescreenwritersjournal.com/devil-an-honest-review/
So first of all, yes, I realize that After Earth is pretty much universally seen as one of the worst Shyamalan films, and don’t even get me started on Last Airbender, I know it’s trash, you know it’s trash, M. Night probaby even knows it’s trash. Though I’ll admit, After Earth on the other hand is watchable, definately not good, but watchable. Devil was alright, though Shyamalan only came up with the story, so it doesn’t really count. Though it did keep up Shyamalan’s tradition of a twist ending.
Then we arrive at the three “real” Shymalan movies I’ve seen, that weren’t universally dumped into an expired volcano. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Split. All three of which have Bruce Willis and an elaborate ending that makes pretty much no sense if you think about them too much, or any at all.
So here’s a little breakdown of each film, and their endings.
Spoilers Ahead, duh
The Sixth Sense
Psychiatrist Bruce Willis helps out Pennsylvania’s creepiest kid, Cole ( Haley Joel Osment ) who’s suffering from the loss of his Father. And it turns out … he can see dead people. The film centers around Willis trying to figure out what exactly the boy’s suffering from, how/if he can see ghost, as well as the how and if he can see ghosts. By the end of the movie – Oh, Bruce Willis is a ghost!
Well, throughout the course of the movie, literally the only person that ever talks to him is Cole. This ending is completely stupid! Lemme’ explain why.
First off, at the start of the film we do see Donnie Wahlberg’s character shoot Willis in the chest. He also has a wife who seemingly prefers he doesn’t exist. But after all the time that goes by, all the time he’s spent, all those days maybe weeks – he’s never once tried speaking to anyone? We’ve seen him sit next to Cole’s Mother ( Toni Collette ), did he never try to talk with her to better understand Cole’s psychology and or history? Did he never try to buy groceries? Call somebody? Ask for directions? Aparently not!
Shymalan wants us to believe that the only person he’s ever tried talking to, other Cole and his wife – are nobody! I mean if the guy’s a hardcore introvert, then he’s a hardcore introvert, simple as that. I just find my disbelief extreemly suspended when I see that ending and put even the slightest amount of thought. into it.
This brings us to the next M. Night/ Bruce Willis collaboration. Released just one year later, this Bruce Willis story, also taking place in Philadelphia, is the story of Bruce Willis being virtually unkillable. He’s the sole survivor of a major accident and is entirely unharmed. Over the course of the movie he begins realizing that he may be a real life superhero. He’s also gone his entire life without realizing he’s never had a cold, cut, bruise or any kind of sickness or injury.
On the other side of the psychical spectrum we have Mr. Glass ( Samuel L. Jackson ), a comic book historian fascinated with the mythology surrounding superheroes. He’s tied to a wheelchair and would probably die if you sneazed on him too hard.
He also has big relationship issues with his wife Audrey ( Robin Wright ). Their kid seemingly in the middle of everything, not that it matters to the story. Either way, this was a pretty big drop from her performance in Forrest Gump.
Now we come to the ending, it turns out that accident Bruce Willis was in; Sam Jackson did it!
Last but not least we come to Split. It’s the story of a teenageish girl ( Anya Taylor-Joy ) who along with two of her classmates ( whom she can’t stand ) is abducted by Kevin ( James McAvoy ); a man with 23 distinct personalities, of which we see about seven.
The unique thing about Kevin is that each of his personalities have entirely different voices, personalities and even memories, and they somehow communicate to each other. Essentially “actual Kevin” doesn’t exist anymore, having lost his body to the other 20 plus personalities. His elder therapist does a good job at explaining the astounding limits as to how far multiple personalities can go. While I’m not a psychologist and cannot confirm if what she said was total BS or not, I can see how the brain could trick itself into believing such things.
Now for the twist ending of this film – Anya Taylor-Joy makes it out alive and probably scarred for life and goes back to her normal life. Nice happy ending right? Well not exactly. Because it turns out there’s a M. Night cinematic universe and Split takes place in the same city and universe as Unbreakable. In the most on the nose scene ever, a news report airs over a diner and some reporters talk about a wheelchaired villain with a funny name. What was that name “Mr. Glass” says David Dunn, a.k.a. Bruce Willis’ character from Unbreakable.
Interestingly this was the only Shymalan twist ending I was ok with, while the others are stupid absurd, this one expands the universe and teases a sequel. It came out in 2019 and is called “Glass” starring McAvoy, Jackson and Willis
Overall it seems that Shyamalan’s brand relies prodominatly on his twist endings. While yes, that’s not the only trait Shymalan holds in his holster, it’s definately his most well known. Ask any Shymalan fan what his common traits are, and chances are “twist endings” will be right on top of that list. Though I haven’t watched the film yet, I am open to the possibility of watching it.
Maybe one day I could make a Part 2 of sorts to this. I also plan on one day watching Signs and The Village, then I can say I’ve seen the major Shymalan films and know I’m in more than the right to express whatever opinions I could form out of his work by then. Regardless of what I think of his work, I can tell Shymalan is a truely passionate filmmaker. Though with the exception of Split, I’ve never particularly enjoyed any of his films, I do find myself listening to his interviews every so often, it’s like he has all the cards he needs to be one of the greats, but just can’t quite deal them right.
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