An interesting experiment of inter-film referencing that feels exploitative - both of your expectations and the content itself.
So it’s a ‘trapped in a room’ movie that turns out to be a super hero origin story. BUT you have to be extremely well versed in M Night Shamalan’s filmography to understand the reveal at the end.
I mean - ok. Sure. The cinephiles that know your work will freak out. But the average movie goer feels dumb, uninformed, and unaffected. Perhaps the goal was to make a great stand alone film that also works as a surprise sequel to Unbreakable, but the result felt more to me like a big misdirection that results in an average-at-best movie for most and a fun gag for a few (relatively).
The film is, all things considered, respectable on the merit of it’s attempt to do something fresh and complex: bottle a sequel to one movie within a package that makes it feel separate and unexpected.
Unfortunately, the film itself up until the reveal feels a bit… underwritten and superficial. Under written in the sense that we have characters making very stupid decisions in which they’re either not fighting for themselves or willfully putting themselves in ridiculous danger (i’m looking at you psychiatrist). We have a cliche horror film with threats of sexual violence that ultimately is unsatisfying.
Even if you like the twist at the end, the story is under cooked. We follow the main girl and learn nothing really about her and her backstory serves as a large red herring. The payoff for the not-Unbreakable-aware audience is luke warm if that.
It felt like a comedian told a joke where only a few of the people in the audience laughed. They laughed hard, but does that make it a good joke if everyone else is furrowing their brow? Not for me, because it’s contingent on information outside the movie.
I like movies to be universal - even sequels should be good stand alone films (like Nolan’s Batmans). Especially if the audience doesn’t even know they’re watching a sequel. (And well this may be an ‘origin story’ and not a sequel, because it requires information of another film to fully ‘work’ it’s fair to call it one).
James McAvoy is fun to watch, even though the characters he portrayed where a bit cliched and grating at times. He delivered some fun lines and kept the movie on its feet. The lead Anya Taylor Joy has crazy eyes and a solid performance as well. Without the two leads this movie would have likely been unbearable but luckily they brought some range to the claustrophobic and at times slow plot.
Could have been shorter, could have been tighter, but I respect the effort to make a novel twist, even if it was the ultimate self indulgence.