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James McAvoy plays Barry/Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/the Beast/Kevin Wendell Crumb, a person with dissociative identity disorder who has 23 different personalities (altars). Since Kevin is the one we see first and fairly regularly, I will refer to the being as Kevin. Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls, and they wake up to find themselves locked in a room. One of them, Clare, begins to engage with him as she becomes aware that he has multiple personalities. Kevin also tells the ladies that he kidnapped them for a special purpose that will become evident in the upcoming days and will involve a new 24th altar. Throughout the movie, different personalities emerge and interact with each other, with the girls, and with his therapist; through the therapist, we learn about Kevin’s past, and through flashbacks, Clare’s. Without question, the best thing about this movie is McAvoy. His performance is brilliant as he effortlessly slips in and out of each of his altars, whether it be a 9 year old boy, and fashion designer, an female socialite, or any of the others. The movie as a whole is good, but I did not think great; Shyamalan doesn’t really get the full mileage from the script that he could have given the really unusual and interesting material. What emerges is a film with a singularly outstanding performance, some great camerawork, and moderate amounts of suspense. Thumbs up for a move that gets its thrills more from suspense and much less from blood (in fact, there really isn’t any physical violence or blood until the very end.  It is also a must-see for fans of James McAvoy. His character is fun, funny, and chilling all at the same time.

About Gary Burkholder

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