M. Night Shyamalan

1992
Praying With Anger
[ It’s apparently impossible to find, but I’ll see what I can do. ]

1998
Wide Awake 51
[ Kid’s grandfather dies and he wants to talk to God about it. Plus, Rosie O’Donnell plays a baseball-loving nun. Yeesh. Awkward pacing, Mickey Mouse music, cheesy narration… It’s no surprise to learn that Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein took the film away from Night and butchered it. Still, you can faintly hear Shyamalan’s voice somewhere in there: his sense of spirituality, his fixation on death, his romantic heart (the flower scene killed me). But yeah, it kinda blows. ]

In any case, here’s where Shyamalan’s career really took off

1999
The Sixth Sense 90
[ review ]

2000
Unbreakable 92
[ review ]

2002
Signs 94
[ review ] / [ review 2.0 ]

2004
The Village 85
[ review ]

2006
Lady in the Water 92
[ review ]

2008
The Happening 67
[ review ]

2010
The Last Airbender 74
[ review ]

after earth

2013
After Earth 40
[ How the mighty fall… To me, from 1999 to 2006, M. Night Shyamalan could do no wrong. “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”, “Signs”, “The Village” and “Lady in the Water” form a film cycle of unparalleled thematic and stylistic consistency. Then came “The Happening”, a rather ridiculous B-movie, and “The Last Airbender”, which I enjoyed when it came out, but which I’ve never felt the desire to revisit. Worse, when “After Earth” came out, I actually skipped it in theaters. The reviews were of course horrible (11% on Rotten Tomatoes), the trailer wasn’t very attractive to me and to be honest, I’d grown tired of defending Shyamalan. Still, I figured I’d catch it at home eventually. It took two years, but I now have. “After Earth” kicks off with a glimpse of a spaceship crash, followed by a quick exposition dump letting us know that in the future, a nearly destroyed Earth was evacuated by mankind, which ended up having to face evil blind aliens who can track us by smelling our fear… But there’s this guy Cypher Raige (an oddly stiff Will Smith) who’s so fearless that he’s invisible to them. Next, there are some scenes establishing Raige’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith in his awkward teen phase) as a hothead with an uneasy relationship with his father. Then we’re back on the spaceship before it crashes, on the abandonned Earth it turns out, which is now a savage land. With Cypher badly injured, it’s up to Kitai to retrieve an emergency beacon that will allow them to call for help. The film is well shot in 2.35:1 by Peter Suschitzky and the special effects are decent, but the plot is thin and not very involving, like something out of a low-rent video game, with little to offer beside Jaden Smith’s character running around, going through various levels and whatnot. Occasionally, Will Smith gives a speech via radio transmitter to his son and touches on some interesting ideas (“Danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”) and there’s an attempt at bringing in some emotion via flashbacks to the death of Kitai’s sister, so there’s that. Alas, it’s not enough to keep “After Earth” from being the most boring Shyamalan movie I’ve seen. ]

2015
Where Paradise Is Home (Wayward Pines pilot)
[ Shyamalan is one of the executive producers of this new series and he also directed this first episode, which is the best thing he’s done in oh, roughly 10 years. Tight, gripping, atmospheric, unpredictable… This feels like vintage Shyamalan. Matt Dillon stars as Ethan Burke, a secret service agent who wakes us, injured and confused, in the woods near Wayward Pines, Idaho. Through a bit of skillfully nonlinear storytelling, we slowly start piecing together what happened to him. At the same time, it becomes increasingly clear that the town he’s found himself in is creepy as hell! Unless it’s Ethan who’s losing is mind… or dead? (Vintage Shyamalan, I tell you!) Dillon is great and he’s surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast (Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Terrence Howard, Toby Jones, Carla Gugino, etc.). Of course, I also have to give lots of credit to series creator/writer Chad Hodge and to Blake Crouch, whose novels this is based on. But Shyamalan brilliantly establishes the setting, keeps things moving and milks every moment for all it’s worth. ]

The Visit 68
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

2017
Split
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]