DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
M. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of criticism, some justified some not so much.
To me Shyamalan always started out as a storyteller, who later grew into a director and ended up falling for the ego trap created around him by himself and the industry. This is perhaps his last well balanced and decent film.
Now, my appreciation of it stems in everything that precedes the obligatory twisty turny ending. It's not that I find the ending bad, or the twist weak, but I'd have been really surprised had he been able to finish this story normally. Towards the end the narrative seems to have one purpose in mind and one purpose only and that is to get you to that ending. It thus to a certain extend disqualifies the more than excellent character driven story that come before it.
There is a trio of performances in this film that is just a joy to watch. Howard, Phoenix and Brody are truly excellent here and that is mainly due to the characters they are given by the author. They are convincing and, as stereotypical as they might feel, they feel real as does their complex intertwining relationship.
Shyamalan shows a great attention to detail here in production design that give this film its strange fantasy/historical feel which I liked quite a bit. He also creates some truly fantastic suspenseful scenes and mixes them with some surprisingly engaging drama. If there is one thing he paints on a bit too thickly it is the pathos smothering the underlying theme
This films is confidently made and that makes stepping over its flaws just a bit easier, making this one of his better efforts and certainly a film that deserves a bit more credit than it seems to get.