I’m four films away from having seen all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films and what I can say is that he is a remarkable director.
The Sixth Sense is a masterpiece. The Village and Signs are both fascinating meditations on inevitability. The Happening and Unbreakable are well directed and written, but poorly edited. Lady in the Water is a deeply flawed film from its writing but incredibly suspenseful thanks to Shyamalan’s touch as a director.
I’m a little terrified for The Last Airbender and am really unsure of what to think about After Earth, but Wide Awake and The Visit both sound interesting.
Shyamalan’s greatest strength, but also his most contentious stylistic choice is to include humour in his films. The humour is awkward and off putting but it also feels very natural. Like jokes I hear from people in real life even when the characters feel surreal.
His most consistent trait, and that which is responsible for the best moments in his films are his long takes. Think of the slow close up in Sixth Sense before the infamous “I see dead people” line. He has analogous scenes in all his films, some of which are almost Kubrickian in their inventiveness and intensity. The Village is worth rewatching just for the beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakin, but worth examining because of how Shyamalan deliberately uses framing and long takes to direct your attention through his stories.
Basically, Shyamalan is in the perfect place for a critical re-examination and his talent is absolutely deserving of more praise than he is accustomed to receiving.