Although I had to miss today's advanced screening of M. Night Shyamalan's'Lady in the Water' and won't be able to review it until next week, a couple of my colleagues who did attend the screening had some interesting news. This shouldn't come as a surprise -- since Shyamalan has been saying it all along -- but my coworkers informed me that there really is no big drop-your-jaw, soil-your-shorts twist at the end. That's a risky movie coming from the man who practically redefined the twist ending with 'The Sixth Sense' and has thrown audiences for some sort of loop or another in each of his ensuing efforts. Was it an act of madness to abandon this device? Or will it make for a refreshing change, releasing Shyamalan from the increasingly weighty burden of jolting an audience that knows a twist is coming? Only time -- and an actual viewing of the film -- will tell. Until then, I'll just have to critique Night's previous twist endings.
WARNING: Do not read on if you have not seen 'The Sixth Sense,' 'Unbreakable,' 'Signs' and 'The Village.'
'The Sixth Sense' (1999): M. Night's third foray into feature-length filmmaking was the one that put him on the map -- and it also produced his best twist ending. The revelation that Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is in fact one of the dead people that Cole (Haley Joel Osment) sees was the cause of millions of gasps and multiple Oscar nominations for Shyamalan. The reason: By cleverly beginning scenes mid-stride, Shyamalan creates the impression that Crowe intereacts with both his wife (Olivia Williams) and Cole's mom (Toni Collette) -- but on second viewing it is clear that not a handshake, not even a word has been exchanged. Twist Rating: 9 (out of 10)
'Unbreakable' (2000): This tale of a depressed security guard (Bruce Willis) who, with the help of a handicapped comics aficionado (Samuel L. Jackson), discovers that he is quite literally unbreakable is perhaps Shyamalan's best film to date. Night shows how Willis' gradual coming-to-terms with his superhuman physical attributes leads to a kind of spiritual awakening, an acceptance of his powers and what they mean. It's the kind of thing that most comics-based superhero movies gloss over in five minutes, and Night's choice to devote an entire film to it is pretty damn smart. The surprise twist -- that Jackson is the villain -- is just the cherry on top. Twist Rating: 8
'Signs' (2002): To defeat invading aliens, a minister (Mel Gibson) realizes that he must heed the dying ramblings of his late wife. Good idea, but the whole aliens-being-allergic-to-water concept was a little lame. If water is their Kryptonite, one would assume they'd think twice before trying to conquer a planet that's predominantly made of the stuff. Twist Rating: 6
'The Village' (2004): The big reveal here -- that the villagers invented the legend of the monsters in order to scare people into staying within their little utopia -- was actually kind of interesting. But having the eldger villagers pretend it was the 17th century when it was really the 21st was a bit too much too swallow. It did, however, make me want to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Twist Rating: 4