Thursday, January 19, 2017
Rapid Reviews: Split and The Founder
The undulating career of writer and director M. Night Shyamalan has been well documented. A tidal wave of acclaim followed his 1999 title, The Sixth Sense, which went on to earn 6 Oscar Nominations. From there Shyamalan dished out a string of reasonably successful efforts including, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village, but he's failed to regain his winning form ever since. Until now, that is, as Shyamalan delivers an imaginative new supernatural thriller with the early year release, Split.
After three teenage girls are kidnapped and held captive in an underground lair by a man (James McAvoy) experiencing multiple personality disorder, they must learn which of these different identities they can use to help them escape. However, as time pushes forward and the wicked plan of the main personalities comes to fruition, there's no telling just how dangerous this situation truly is.
As is the case with almost any M. Night Shyamalan movie, it's imperative to not give away the secrets to his screenplay. As a master of mystery and plot twists, storytelling has always been the filmmaker's strongest attribute. Shyamalan recaptures past magic with a dark and clever tale of the body's remarkable capabilities. Split takes the audience on a thrilling ride that admittedly loses momentum as the minutes pile on, however everything still culminates in a rewarding fashion. While the writer/director (and let's not forget, actor too) slowly reveals these pieces the puzzle, he also manages to tip his hand fairly early in the film. Therefore, the slow building that follows never feels as surprising as it should. There are countless up and down moments all throughout the film, yet Shyamalan's gripping story is perfectly captured by the immense acting talents of James McAvoy. He commands the screen with each distinct personality and the unpredictability of his characters keep the film engaging. Split doesn't quite align with Shyamalan's most notable works, but it marks a successful return to form for the once heralded filmmaker.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
"If my competitor were drowning, I'd stick a hose in his mouth and turn the water on". And that's all you need to know about Ray Kroc and the manner in which he transformed McDonald's from a successful family-run restaurant into a global fast-food chain. Earning the biopic treatment, John Lee Hancock - director of The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks - teams with Michael Keaton to deliver a compelling examination of capitalism's cutthroat nature in The Founder.
Once struggling milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc (Keaton) learns the ins and outs of the small California-based burger shop, McDonald's, he envisions a golden opportunity for growth and franchising. Not look after, Kroc weasels his way into a limited partnership with sibling owners, Mac and Dick McDonald (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman). But as this trio of business partners fails to see eye-to-eye on key issues, Kroc must take any means necessary to make his vision become a reality.
As a ruthless depiction of the American dream modestly tempered by well-scripted moments of humor, John Lee Hancock's The Founder mirrors a hybrid of recent biopics such as The Social Network and The Wolf of Wall Street. Ray Kroc's character becomes more and more interesting as we see his hunger for success grow wildly out of control, to the point where he gladly takes whatever he wants. Michael Keaton is the main attraction here, as he breathes a sinful likability into the real-life persona of an American entrepreneur. The film's entertaining screenplay, which is wonderfully assisted by Keaton's performance, crafts a complex character that the audience hates to love. There are a few deficiencies within the film, like its failure to break any new ground from a cinematic and storytelling standpoint, which creates a rather limited ceiling of achievement. But, if nothing else, The Founder stands as a smoothly-paced and enlightening watch, highlighted by a gifted lead actor and a realistic journey into the world of big business.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4