Film (2000). Written and directed by M Night Shyamalan. Cast includes Samuel L Jackson, Robin Wright Penn and Bruce Willis. 106 minutes. Colour.
A security guard (Willis), unscathed sole survivor of a train disaster, is contacted by a disabled Comics expert (Jackson) who suspects him of invulnerability and gradually persuades him to accept his calling as a Superhero.
Shyamalan's followup to his immensely successful The Sixth Sense (1999) was a box-office disappointment, its determinedly solemn approach to the superhero-origin narrative failing to appeal in the wake of the genre's dramatic reinvigoration by that summer's lavish and colourful X-Men (2000) (see X-Men Films). The attempt at a grittily low-key, realistic treatment of Superpowers is somewhat undermined by the multiple coarsenesses of Jackson's mad-haired, stick-waving performance. The laughable line in which the film's rationale is spelled out – here, that "comics are our last link to an ancient way of passing on history" – would become something of a Shyamalan signature, as would the search for a match between the characters and events of the film and their corresponding roles in an elaborate pre-existent Mythology. Slow-paced and testingly deferent of the traditional genre gratifications, it relies on brooding character play to sustain its slender storyline, only to explode in the dying minutes with a rushed and belated twist (Jackson's antic character is not a hero-mentor but a supervillain!) which immediately dissipates in closural text titles. [NL]
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