My stepson arrived for Christmas with a couple of DVD films he thought I might like to watch. So last night, we started with this one. I was immediately put off by the film-maker, M. Knight Shyamalan. Other than ‘The Sixth Sense’, I haven’t enjoyed any of his films. But it stars James McAvoy, a Scottish actor who was very good in the TV series ‘Shameless’, and went on to star in ‘The Last King of Scotland’, ‘Atonement’, and some X-Men films. So, maybe worth a look.
His character in this film is host to no less than twenty-three different personalities. Some male, some female, others very young, and one very dark and menacing. He is driven to kidnap three young women, one of whom is hiding her own dark secret from her friends. After one of his multiple personalities carried out the kidnapping, another seeks counselling from an elderly therapist. (A good turn from Betty Buckley) She is one of the few people who really believes in his multiple personalities, and has become something of an expert on that form of mental illness.
Back in the bleak series of rooms where the girls have been imprisoned, we are treated to the flashbacks of one of them, the secret-hiding Casey. This not only unravels her dark past, but later has some relevance as the story develops. They are taunted by the various personalities, which are kind to them, or threatening, in turn. There are the usual abortive attempts at escape, nothing new there, and frequent visits by the main personality to the therapist, who is becoming alarmed by his unscheduled appearances, and suspects a crisis. So the scene is set. Three young women in peril, a deeply-disturbed individual in control of their fate, and a kindly old doctor who hopes to get to the root of his issues.
There are some good points to talk about. There are no police trying to find them. No sub-plots about concerned relatives and detectives, and little or no back-story about the man with all those personalities to further confuse the viewer. It boils down to a classic ‘will they won’t they survive?’ psychological thriller, not unlike quite a few we have all seen before. It avoids some of the classic mistakes in that genre, but not all. McAvoy does a very convincing job with numerous accents, and is able to portray the many different individuals who inhabit his body without need of any special make-up, or extreme changes of clothing.
But like many films from Mr Shyamalan, it left me thinking ‘Oh, right…’ There could have been much more use of the many personalities, which are the thing the film hangs on after all, and I would have liked to have seen a lot more of the reliable Betty Buckley too. The three women have little to do save for being terrified, and for me at least, the ending suggested the possibility of a sequel.
Or maybe I just didn’t get it?
Here’s the trailer.