Known more for his fondness of a final-act twist than for any other aspect of his filmic career, Manoj Shyamalan – a man you will most likely be acquainted with as “M.Night” or “that guy who directed The Sixth Sense” – remains to this day to be one of Hollywood’s most divisive directors.
Though his latest film, ‘Split’, has proved to be a well overdue return to form for the Mahé-born director, there’s no denying that the quality of Shyamalan’s filmography is about as erratic as the multiple fractured personalities exhibited by James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb. Ranging from the magnificent (Unbreakable) to the misguided (Lady in the Water), it would appear that Shyamalan has struggled to attain an adequate level of consistency in his movies over the past 25 years or so.
Having directed, written, produced, and even starred in a number of his own efforts, Shyamalan is somewhat of the archetypal jack-of-all-trades – a man so very excited to try his hand at any, and indeed every, aspect of film-making that he has failed to become a true master of the discipline in the meantime. In fact, if you were to work out the accumulative average Rotten Tomatoes rating of his 13 features so far, you would be greeted by an aptly divisive 48%. Shyamalan, more than most, it seems has truly managed to ‘Split’ (sorry) both the critics and moviegoers.
As a member of that exclusive club of individuals who have received both a Best Picture Oscar nomination and a Worst Picture Razzie, M. Night is without a shadow of the doubt one of the most marmite directors working in the industry today. That being said, I think the man’s sheer range of talent have been rather unfairly disregarded by the general public as a result of his penchant for delivering the unexpected. More than capable of terrifying and entertaining audiences with a respectively dead and un-dead Brue Willis, it’s easy to forget some of the more eclectic projects undertaken by Shyamalan, who co-wrote Stuart Little and was even unveiled as the ghostwriter for the Freddie Prinze Jr.-vehicle, She’s All That. Although neither of these films are masterpieces, their presence on M. Night’s lengthy resume do help to accentuate the all-too forgotten fact that Shyamalan is far from a one-trick pony.
Even at his absolute worst, of which The Last Air Bender is ostensibly that, I truly believe the potential exists in Shyamalan’s work for something more. Despite this particular film’s many, many glaring faults, I stand by my opinion that there was still some spark of creativity present in its construction. (Although I’m hardly surprised by the fact that I stand alone in this regard.) Re-watching The Last Air Bender recently – which should preferably be done behind closed doors and completely alone so that no-one can witness your shame – I was still left with the feeling that Shyamalan was at least trying to do something a little different in its construction, and I think that’s partly what makes him and his films so endearing.
In an industry bloated with run-of-the-mill action flicks, Shyamalan simply refuses to play it safe. Enacting a shit-or-bust mentality that has admittedly resulted in some of his films being both box-office busts and unobjectively shit final-products, M. Night has also produced some of Hollywood’s most daring flicks over the last two decades. Who else, after all, would be stupidly brave enough to make his latest film a secret sequel to one that came out roughly 17 years ago? And who else but Shyamalan would be able to make it actually work?
Awarded the prestigious 'Padma Shri' by the government of his native India in the very same year that The Happening stank up cinemas worldwide; the one thing you can always guarantee with M. Night Shyamalan is that nothing is ever guaranteed. And that’s what makes him a worthy artist in my eyes. As a filmmaker not afraid to take a risk or two, M. Night Shyamalan has more than earnt the right for our attention, though the question remains whether or not he can maintain a hold of that attention in the foreseeable future.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what he comes out with next and in order to pay proper homage to Shyamalan, and what I consider to be his enthusiastically charming insanity, I will end this article on a final twist. So, here it is: I’ve never seen The Sixth Sense. ROLL CREDITS.