Rumour has it that two time collaborators, director M. Night Shyamalan and actor Joaquin Phoenix are set to team up once more for Shyamalan’s next, as of yet untitled project. The duo first worked together on Signs back in 2002, a movie that found success both critically and commercially, before following up in 2004 with the considerably less successful The Village.
Since the pair’s first outing together with Signs, things have gotten a little rough for poor Shyamalan, who’s gone from being a Hollywood golden boy after The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, to a much derided shell of his former self – in filmmaking terms. If ever an example of Shyamalan’s well documented fall from grace was needed, a side by side comparison of the critical take on Signs vs that of his last release, the preposterous After Earth, does the trick very well indeed.
Here’s what the main man himself Roger Ebert had to say on Signs…
“M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air. When it is over, we think not how little has been decided, but how much has been experienced.”
…And here’s what Mick LaSalle thought of After Earth:
“M. Night Shyamalan is branching out, coming up with new ways to make bad movies. His plan must be to exhaust all possibilities, so as to eventually come full circle and make a good one by accident.”
Which, as a big fan of Shyamalan’s early work is incredibly disheartening, and yet difficult to disagree with.
Joaquin Phoenix on the other hand has gone from strength to strength, bagging Oscar nominations for The Master and Walk the Line, as well as a Golden Globe for latter. Which begs the question, what does he have to gain from working with Shyamalan for a third time? The project may perhaps bring him a commercial hit, if the director can find his form, but commercial success has never seemed to be too high on the priority list for Phoenix. He is, after all, the same guy who starred in the bizarre mockumentary I’m Still Here.
My hope is that both Phoenix and Shyamalan bring out the best in each other. There’s no doubting Phoenix is a powerful on screen presence, but despite having become an easy target for derision, Shyamalan has more than a few tricks up his sleeves as well. His return to lower budget thrillers with The Visit later this month might just be the spoonful of medicine needed to kickstart his comeback…..here’s where I would have coined a new phrase along the lines of Matthew McConaughey’s “McConaissance”, if Shyamalan actually rhymed with anything.
There may be yet another plot twist still to come in Shyamalan’s career….
The Visit releases September 11th, 2015. Will you be watching? Share your thoughts in the comments below!