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‘Life’ — In this space there is no heaven

March 24th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick adopt a serious tone in the ensemble sci-fi thriller “Life.”

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal star in a scene from the movie "Life." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. CNS/Columbia)

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal star in a scene from the movie “Life.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. CNS/Columbia)

Together with deft performances and some creative camera work, this unusually thoughtful mood serves to offset the familiarity of the film’s humans-versus-predator premise.

Characters are too busy battling for their lives to engage in much romance, chaste or otherwise. But the bloody details of their conflict with the rampaging alien at the heart of the action are suitable neither for kids nor for the squeamish among their elders.

Said E.T. arrives on an unmanned capsule carrying samples back from Mars that the multiethnic crew of an international space station has been tasked with retrieving.

Besides the vessel’s commander, cosmonaut Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), the team includes world-weary physician Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal); rules-driven disease prevention expert Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson); freewheeling mission specialist Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds); homesick flight engineer Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada); and paraplegic British scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare).

Faced with the tricky task of stopping the cargo ship before it speeds past them, the astronauts are delighted when they succeed. They’re even happier once Derry’s research reveals that they’re in possession of the first living organism ever encountered beyond Earth.

Unfortunately for them, however, the initially tiny creature they’ve taken on board turns out to have not only an incredibly rapid growth rate but a murderously aggressive approach to interacting with humans. It’s also devilishly brilliant and resourceful.

Loss of life is treated with an unusual degree of sober reflection in the suspenseful clash of wits and survival skills that follows.

This is in obvious and welcome contrast to the innumerable Hollywood movies in which the bodies of anonymous, mown-down extras seem to pile up like so many chords of wood. It may also serve as a legitimate point of divergence from the movie with which many viewers will inevitably compare “Life” — Ridley Scott’s memorable 1979 franchise-begetter, “Alien.”

Yet, while largely free of callousness in its portrayal of fatal violence, “Life” is so bleak and, at times, darkly ironic, that it can feel nihilistic. Thus, in whole passages of the dialogue discussing bereavement, there’s not a glimmer or hint of faith in an afterlife. As a result, moviegoers may feel as confined in the script’s secular, despairing outlook as the trapped space travelers do within their invaded craft.

The film contains some gory deaths and gruesome images, a few uses of profanity as well as numerous rough and several crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted.     

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Shack’ seeks to justify the ways of God

March 3rd, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“The Shack,” director Stuart Hazeldine’s screen version of William Paul Young’s best-selling novel, represents a serious effort to tackle the problem of evil from a Christian perspective. As such, it will be welcomed by believers.

Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington star in a scene from the movie "The Shack." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington star in a scene from the movie “The Shack.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

While objectionable elements are virtually absent from the film, however, patches of dialogue discounting the value of religion, here implicitly set in opposition to faith broadly speaking, and hinting that God is indifferent to how we worship him mean that impressionable viewers should keep their distance. So, too, does the morally problematic treatment of a dark and long-kept secret.

After his young daughter, Missy (Amelie Eve), is abducted and murdered, previously devout churchgoer Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips (Sam Worthington) has a crisis of faith. But a note from “Papa,” his wife, Nan’s (Radha Mitchell), nickname for God, leads to an encounter with the Trinity near the titular hideout where evidence of Missy’s death was uncovered that alters his perspective.

Octavia Spencer plays an unflappable, warmhearted God the Father, Avraham Aviv Alush a fun-loving Jesus and Sumire a serene Holy Spirit. As Spencer bakes, Sumire gardens and Alush tinkers in his carpentry shed, Worthington learns to see his own tragedy as a spiritual death that offers the prospect of resurrection.

While some may be uncomfortable with the fact that both the Father and the Holy Spirit manifest themselves to the protagonist as women, given that they would be free to do so in whatever guise they chose, this is no real objection, all the more so since Spencer eventually morphs, when it seems advisable, into a paternal Graham Greene.

The narrative’s brief descent from nondenominationalism into outright indifferentism and its suggestion that religion is “too much work” are more substantial defects. While Mack has much to forgive, moreover, he has a shocking crime in his own background that the movie seems to excuse too easily.

Beautiful settings and a sense of humor help to keep the somewhat overlong proceedings from bogging down in sentimentality. But the script, penned by John Fusco, Andrew Lanham and Destin Cretton, takes on too many weighty subjects, from the suffering of innocents to the need for forgiveness, to treat any one of them in a fully satisfying way.

Still, on the whole, this is an intriguing endeavor to accomplish the same goal British poet John Milton set himself in writing his masterpiece, “Paradise Lost,” namely,” to justify the ways of God to men.”

The film contains scenes of domestic violence and mature themes requiring careful discernment. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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The end is the beginning in ‘Before I Fall’

March 3rd, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Sound values underlie the conversion story “Before I Fall.” But the path toward its positive conclusion takes twists and turns that will give the parents of targeted teens pause in considering whether their kids should travel it.

Logan Miller and Zoey Deutch star in a scene from the movie "Before I Fall." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Open Road)

Logan Miller and Zoey Deutch star in a scene from the movie “Before I Fall.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Open Road)

Early on in the film, its main character, seemingly successful high school student Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch), is killed in a car crash. But instead of this being the end of her tale, it turns out to be just the beginning.

Samantha awakens again on the morning of her last day on earth, a period of time, she soon discovers, that she will be forced to relive over and over until she discerns what she needs to change about her life to escape the cycle. The relationships she has to re-evaluate include those with her trio of closest pals, Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahirri).

Additionally, she’ll need to re-examine her bond with her shallow boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley), her treatment of Kent (Logan Miller), the less glamorous but more caring lad who has loved her from afar since childhood, and her persecution of troubled schoolmate Juliet (Elena Kampouris) whom Samantha and her clique relentlessly torment.

Symptomatic of the problem with director Ry Russo-Young’s adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s 2010 novel for young adults is Samantha’s attitude toward romance and sexuality. This is another area in which her values take a posthumous turn for the better. Yet her starting point on this journey finds her besties celebrating the fact that she is about to lose her virginity, and presenting her with a condom for the occasion.

Together with some of the language in Maria Maggenti’s script, such behavior makes “Before I Fall” a risky proposition for any but grownups.

The time loop conceit inevitably invites comparison with the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day.” For Catholic moviegoers, at least, Samantha’s experience also can be viewed from a theological perspective as representing a sort of purgatory through which she must pass.

The fact that she not only sees through the illusions that have blinded her in the past but reaches a high level of compassion and altruism fittingly fulfills the goal of that cleansing state. So it’s a shame that other aspects of the movie preclude endorsement for the young people at whom “Before I Fall” is clearly aimed.

The film contains semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, partial nudity, underage drinking, a single use each of profanity and rough language, a mild oath, frequent crude talk and mature references, including to homosexuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Drug heist and kidney crisis ‘Collide’

February 27th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

As its title implies, “Collide” involves vehicular mayhem.

There’s so much high-speed demolition derby, in fact, that it becomes somewhat more entertaining, just on the basis of sheer volume, to focus on that rather than the thin drug-smuggling plot. But director Eran Creevy, who co-wrote the screenplay with F. Scott Frazier, intends all of this with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

We know this because Geran (Ben Kingsley), who hires Casey (Nicholas Hoult), a young American living in Germany, to hijack a truck smuggling cocaine, keeps calling him “Burt Reynolds.” It’s a 1970s reference, meant to imply that Casey’s just a good ol’ boy.

Casey’s career up to now has involved stealing cars and trucks for Geran. He’s despondent about where his life has taken him.

At a rowdy nightclub, he meets another American, Juliette (Felicity Jones), and their whirlwind romance sets him on a new course working honestly in an auto salvage yard. She’s dazzling, quirky and in desperate need of a kidney transplant for which the German health system will not pay.

Raising that kind of money necessitates a return to crime, an immoral means to a good end. So Casey agrees to participate in the complicated drug heist, which is being led by Hagen (Anthony Hopkins), Geran’s former partner and a leading German kingpin.

What could go wrong? Virtually everything. Casey, accordingly, has to escape Hagen and his torturing henchmen repeatedly, and rescue Juliette after they take her hostage.

Steal something, speed, crash, repeat. Watch the pretty muscle cars rushing by.

The outline for a bare-bones thriller is clearly here. But the story loses quite a bit in the execution, and the characters and dilemmas prove less than compelling.

The film contains gun and physical violence and fleeting rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

      Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service

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‘The Great Wall’ — A deeply implausible, shallow spectacle

February 22nd, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Those seeking nothing more from a movie than sheer spectacle may be satisfied with director Zhang Yimou’s visually interesting but thoroughly implausible action adventure “The Great Wall.”     

Epic in scale, the film is shallow in emotion and characterization. On the upside though, its central romance is completely chaste and its dialogue mostly free of cursing.

Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "The Great Wall." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS Universal)

Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie “The Great Wall.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS Universal)

To appreciate those assets, however, viewers will first have to swallow a whopper of a premise. Drawn by the wealth they could gain by introducing gunpowder into the West, two medieval European mercenaries, William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal), arrive in China after an arduous journey during which they were harried, as the opening scenes show, by unidentified adversaries.

But an unpleasant surprise awaits the visitors. As they soon discover, their unwilling hosts are preoccupied with battling vicious alien monsters called the Tao Tei. It was to defend against these marauding creatures that the famous structure of the title was built.

Or so, at least, the script, written by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy, attempts to inform us with a straight face.

William gradually becomes committed to this struggle, not least because he’s attracted to Lin Mae (Jing Tian), the fetching commander of one division of the local forces, the Crane Corps (think Cirque du Soleil with spears). But Pero remains focused on the original scheme.

He’s abetted in it by Ballard (Willem Dafoe), another traveler who came to the Middle Kingdom years before for exactly the same purpose as the new arrivals, and has been held prisoner ever since.

What with catapults launching great balls of fire and innumerable colorfully uniformed soldiers manning the ramparts, there’s plenty to absorb the eye. As for the brain or heart, not so much.

Super-skilled archer William undergoes something of a conversion, evolving from a lone wolf who boasts of trusting no one to a team player, at least where Lin Mae is concerned. And the movie’s conclusion does show him putting loyalty to Pero above potential profit, a choice the screenplay implicitly but unmistakably endorses.

But he remains merely the battle-hardened, scarred warrior type rather than a fully rounded person. Nor is there much individuality to Lin Mae.

Given that these two never so much as kiss, on the other hand, and that the screenplay is seldom marred by vulgarity, many parents may consider “The Great Wall” acceptable for older teens. All the more so since the mayhem of the fight against the Tao Tei is portrayed far more suggestively than graphically.

The film contains action violence with little gore, a mild oath as well as at least one crude and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘The Comedian’ — Funny as a car crash

February 7th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

If a movie’s going to be titled “The Comedian,” and the phrase isn’t intended ironically, since the film is about a stand-up comic, the audience has a right to expect that some mirth awaits therein.

Robert De Niro and Danny DeVito star in a scene from the movie  (CNS/Sony Pictures Classics)

Robert De Niro and Danny DeVito star in a scene from the movie (CNS/Sony Pictures Classics)

But with Robert De Niro as insult comic Jackie Burke, this is where funny has gone to die, cringing the entire way.

Portrayals of sad, bitter comedians chasing fading laughter and applause have been around for decades, notably with Laurence Olivier in “The Entertainer” (1960), Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night” (1992) and Adam Sandler in “Funny People” (2009).

What makes “The Comedian” unique in this pantheon is that, whenever De Niro grabs a microphone and launches into one of Jackie’s caustic, profane rants, whatever pleasant storytelling flow has existed up to that point suddenly ends in the manner of a car crash.

Jackie’s at a precipice in both his life and career. His fame comes from a starring role in a catchphrase-laden 1980s sitcom, which threatens to pigeonhole him as a nostalgia act.

He has anger issues, too, and one night he attacks a heckler, who quickly puts the assault on YouTube. Viral ignominy finally gives Jackie’s career some heat, but he’s too suspicious and unbending to take advantage of it.

Unable to leave New York City because of his probation and sentenced to community service at a soup kitchen following a stint in jail, Jackie tries to reconnect to humanity through his steady comic patter with the homeless. He also starts a furtive romance with Harmony (Leslie Mann), a mobster’s daughter who’s also doing community service and has temper problems of her own.

Everyone in Jackie’s orbit suffers from his abuse, including his agent, Miller (Edie Falco), brother, Jimmy (Danny DeVito), and sister-in-law, Florence (Patti LuPone).

Director Taylor Hackford and a quartet of screenwriters capture a bickering, yet affectionate, show-business milieu, somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” from 1984. But in Jackie, they have too unpleasant and pointless a character to sustain a compelling narrative.

The film contains references to nonmarital sexual activity, occasional profanity and frequent rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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Here’s the third call from ‘Rings’

February 7th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

There’s something about being tossed down a well and left for dead that can make a girl really cranky.

Matilda Lutz stars in a scene from the movie "Rings." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS /Paramount Pictures)

Matilda Lutz stars in a scene from the movie “Rings.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS /Paramount Pictures)

Hence, “Rings,” the third film in an American horror franchise based on a 1998 Japanese feature. The series concerns a spooky black-and-white video, viewers of which are doomed to die seven days after watching it. Like a chain letter, it has to be shared and viewed by another person, otherwise Samara (Bonnie Morgan) emerges from her watery grave on video screens to exact her human toll.

Updated for the viral-video and cellphone era since the last installment in 2005, this time the disturbing symbolic images are widely shared by undergraduates involved in malevolent professor Gabriel’s (Johnny Galecki) research into how the soul migrates after death.

One part never changes, of course. After someone watches the video, his or her phone rings, a girl’s voice hisses “Seven days!” and the fate of the person on the other end is sealed.

At this point, there’s not much shock value when Samara surfaces to commence killing. In fact, at this stage the audience is more likely to give her entrance applause as if she were a beloved musical-comedy star.

Recognizing this, director F. Javier Gutierrez and screenwriters David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman turn up the psychological-thriller elements, focusing on the search for Samara’s origins in the quaint, yet evil, hamlet of Sacrament Valley.

Julia (Matilda Lutz) and boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) make efficient use of their seven days to figure out that the birds, ants and so on in the video images are a message from Samara identifying her killers and the people who made her life miserable before that.

The duo set off on a compassionate search that leads them to Samara’s presumed tomb, a deconsecrated church, a story about a flood and rustic plaid-clad locals, all of whom harbor secrets.

Occult overtones or, in this case, ringtones, routinely move this type of film into the adult range. Yet “Rings” is clearly aimed at teens, with gory sights kept mostly in check. So many parents may consider it acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains occult themes, some violence but with little blood, brief drug use and references to nonmarital sexual activity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Lion’ a hauntingly poignant, uplifting film

February 7th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

The incredible true story of one orphan’s 20-year odyssey to find his way back home roars to cinematic life in “Lion.”

Sunny Pawar and Deepti Naval star in a scene from the movie "Lion." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. . (CNS/The Weinstein Company)

Sunny Pawar and Deepti Naval star in a scene from the movie “Lion.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. . (CNS/The Weinstein Company)

Taken from his native India as a boy, Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) grew to manhood in a loving adoptive family in Australia. But he was haunted by his lost childhood and the beloved mother (Priyanka Bose) he left behind. His 2013 memoir (written with Larry Buttrose), “A Long Way Home,” inspired this poignant and uplifting film, directed by Garth Davis.

The story begins in 1986 as a lively tale of two brothers, 5-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his older sibling Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). Life is hard in rural India, and they scavenge for items to resell so they can buy food for their family.

The brothers adore their mother, Kamala, who ekes out a living as a manual laborer, clearing rocks at a nearby quarry.

One night, Saroo follows Guddu to the railway station in search of work. They become separated, and Saroo, wandering into an empty train car, falls asleep.

When Saroo awakens, the train is moving, and he is locked inside. After 1,500 kilometers, the train finally comes to a stop, in the bustling metropolis of Kolkata (then still called Calcutta).

Saroo is terrified by this unknown place teeming with humanity. Unable to remember his family name and home village, he wanders the streets alone, barely escaping abduction.

Months pass before Saroo comes to the attention of the authorities. They advertise his case to locate his parents, but to no avail. So Saroo is put up for adoption, and heads to Australia in the caring embrace of Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) Brierley.

Fast-forward two decades, and Saroo (Patel) is now a well-adjusted and ambitious young man, enrolled in hotel management school along with his cute girlfriend, Lucy (Rooney Mara).

He stands in contrast to his stepbrother, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa), whom the Brierleys also adopted from India, shortly after Saroo. Mantosh suffers from mental illness and can be moody, even violent. The patience and unconditional love offered by his foster parents are inspiring.

Meanwhile, Saroo meets peers who are also of Indian descent, and begins to wonder about his earlier life. Curiosity turns to obsession, and with the help of the internet, Saroo sets out to retrace his long-ago train journey and pinpoint his native village.

“I have to find my way back home,” he tells Sue, who is supportive of his quest.

A five-hankie weepie that packs an emotional wallop, “Lion” emerges as a celebration of family. It also sends a strong pro-life message by underscoring the joys and merits of adoption, and showing that a child can be shared and loved equally by two sets of parents.

Unfortunately, Saroo and Lucy’s relationship is portrayed in a manner that precludes endorsement of “Lion” for younger viewers. That’s a shame because teens, at least, might otherwise have profited from this touching movie.

In a postscript, “Lion” highlights the disturbing reality that more than 80,000 children go missing in India each year, with most undoubtedly denied the happy ending Saroo enjoyed.

The film contains mature themes and two brief nongraphic nonmarital sex scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’

February 3rd, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is the sixth and presumably last in a series of video game-based films that began back in 2002.

William Levy stars in a scene from the movie "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

William Levy stars in a scene from the movie “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Sony)

The movies have always kept their connection to the console on open display. This makes them ideal for those who like their zombies, shootouts and occasionally gory incidents of flesh-eating served up with a minimum of story line or dialogue. For anyone beyond the fan base, though, frustration and a possible headache awaits.

Alice (Milla Jovovich, as ever), squeezes into her famous black tights to battle the undead as well as the evil Umbrella Corporation led by the diabolical Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen). Her sidekick, Claire (Ali Larter), provides occasional assistance.

Director and writer Paul W.S. Anderson (Jovovich’s real-life husband) provides not so much a plot as a goal, as if this were a game level.  Alice has 48 hours to find the airborne antidote to the T-virus. A pandemic of said malady has turned the planet, especially the remnants of Washington, into a dystopian moonscape populated by flesh-craving zombies.

Alice herself had the T-virus. But it seems to have been just her cup of T, since she somehow gained superpowers from her illness.

On this adventure, she fights Dr. Isaacs with whatever weapons come to hand, leads skirmishes against the zombies (who prefer to run in packs), and has occasional encounters with the Red Queen (Ever Anderson), a digitized younger version of herself who provides instructions and reminds the audience what Alice is supposed to be doing.

This series, while well short of classic, has nonetheless proved quite durable. And Jovovich puts in the effort to keep Alice a moral force of a sort. She does, after all, stay grimly focused on the collection of villains she’s up against.

The film contains gun, knife and martial-arts violence with some gore and fleeting foul language. The Catholic News classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Split’ delves into multiple personality prognosis

January 20th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Split,” the latest psychological thriller from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, posits that victims of childhood sexual abuse are not only prone to dissociative identity disorder, split personalities, but also that each persona can have unique physical characteristics.

Anya Taylor-Joy stars in a scene from the movie "Split." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.  (CNS photo/Universal)

Anya Taylor-Joy stars in a scene from the movie “Split.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS photo/Universal)

In addition, Shyamalan suggests that victims of the condition have hidden strengths that may be advanced on the evolutionary scale. That’s typically an excuse to lard on special effects and stunts, but not here.

Shyamalan’s not out to make anyone think too deeply about this prognosis. He prefers to couch the story in the efficient tropes of a cheese-ball teen-abduction drama, using a reliable scream queen, Anya Taylor-Joy, as a lure. The film does not veer in the direction of exploitation, however, making it possibly suitable for older adolescents.

His devotees will recognize Shyamalan’s continued exploration of the concept of the immortal soul, which began in 1999 with “The Sixth Sense” and continued with “Unbreakable” the following year.

Shayamalan’s villain, Kevin (James McAvoy), abducts three teen girls, Casey, Claire and Marcia (Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula), in suburban Philadelphia and whisks them away to what appears to be a subterranean lair, but is later shown to be an underground warren of rooms at a zoo.

Kevin’s motives are not clear. It turns out he’s the frightened host of 23 other personalities, of whom we see a cheerful 9-year-old boy, a prissy British woman, a fey clothing designer and an angry thug. There’s also a 24th personality he particularly fears, which he calls The Beast.

Kevin, when he’s out and about, seeks help from a psychologist, Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). She’s aware that she’s seeing only part of a very complicated puzzle and that Kevin was abused by his unstable mother as a child. But she doesn’t know about the abductions.

Casey, it turns out, is best equipped to deal with Kevin since, as we are shown in discreet flashbacks, she was molested by an uncle at an early age, and the abuse continued for years after the death of her father. The other two girls are mostly just fodder for escape attempts and Kevin’s many threats and murderous intentions.

So from early on, “Split” follows the familiar pattern of teen girls in peril, with a general “moral” about what doesn’t kill you making you stronger, in this case, amazingly stronger.

The film contains gun and physical violence with some gore, mature themes, including sexual abuse, and fleeting rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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