Split ** ½
Dir: M Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula
M. Night Shyamalan made his reputation with some thoughtful suspense films that had killer endings (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs). But he’s been in an extended slump over the last decade or so and hence Split, a thriller that keeps you engaged without managing to deliver that crucial knock-out punch, marks (somewhat) a welcome return to form for the writer/director.
James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder (what was previously called multiple personality disorder) and within whom reside 23 distinctive personalities, including Hedwig (a nine-year old with a lisp), Patricia (a stern disciplinarian), and Dennis (an obsessive-compulsive germophobe). When Dennis kidnaps three teen girls on the instructions of Patricia for reasons that become clearer near the creepy climax Kevin’s psychologist (Betty Buckley) begins to suspect that something may not be quite right. But the truth is something that even she can’t begin to imagine.
The movie is propped up by the excellent McAvoy who gets a chance to show off all his acting skills. The performance (or, more accurately, performances) could have descended into grandstanding but McAvoy is skilled enough (and invested enough) to avoid that particular pitfall. Shyamalan also manages to rein in his worse tendencies for the most part and keeps the movie humming along. The climax (including the so-called twist) is less satisfying than the lead-up but the movie doesn’t wear out its welcome and I’ve seen many poorer so-called thrillers.
Cut to chase: Not a home run but intriguing enough.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania ***
Dir: Shashank Khaitan
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sahil Vaid, Rituraj Singh, Shweta Basu Prasad, Aparshakti Khurrana, Gauhar Khan
Writer/Director Shashank Khaitan and leads Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan’s earlier teaming, the ultimately predictable Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania was only moderately entertaining. The trio do a little better this time around with a movie that does its job reasonably well while pushing genre conventions just a little bit and carrying a progressive agenda (even if rather obviously so) to boot. The messaging – anti-dowry, pro-women’s empowerment and patriarchy-challenging – may be a little too in-your-face but the movie moves along jauntily enough in its first half as it follows the not-so predictable romance of the Hindi-medium 10th-standard pass Badrinath (Dhawan) as he pursues the reluctant Vaidehi (Bhatt), who has dreams of her own and is not the sitting-at-home type at all. The movie’s firmly middle-class setting is also a pleasant departure for a Karan Johar Dharma production and his obsession with all things upscale and NRI. The leads also buoy the production with their performances and the supporting cast is more than solid.
The movie’s second half though feels a bit stretched as the location moves largely to Singapore (Johar can’t help himself, can he?) and the characters seem to serve the plot rather than the other way round. Some situations – like the role-reversal in a near-molestation scene – aren’t convincing at all as they appear to exist only to make a particular point. I was also never quite convinced by the Badrinath-Vaidehi romance (given their backgrounds and personalities) but Dhawan-Bhatt have a nice chemistry and just about manage to sell it.
Overall, a pleasant enough time-passer.
Cut to chase: Entertaining enough and with the right message.
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection