Split – Movie Review
Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize.
After a moderate success with The Visit, Shyamalan returns to make a psychological thriller surrounding a career-best performance from James McAvoy, who portrays a man suffering from the worst case of dissociative identity disorder ever. Shyamalan has drastically returned to his roots with this film. A low-budget suspense film centered around mounting tension and three fantastic performances. Anya Taylor Joy gives another great performance after The Witch and Morgan, as the main captor of this man who seems to get the most attention out of him. Also terrific is Betty Buckley, who plays McAvoy’s psychiatrist. The film is lensed by the DOP of It Follows, who outdoes his work in that film here. The lighting is superb, the camerawork is claustrophobic and brilliantly contained. It’s one of the best looking movies of Shyamalan’s career. The music is also extremely subtle, sometimes you don’t even notice as it creeps into a scene and slowly builds an aura of dread.
McAvoy is truly brilliant here. An insanely courageous performance. Each personality is easily distinguished from the rest, just by his voice and facial mannerisms. This is also a film with a perfect balance of humor and thrills. Shyamalan wisely gets us to laugh at some of the more absurd elements in McAvoy’s personalities. Shyamalan also cleverly sets up small story bits here and there that won’t be fully appreciated until final moments. He trusts the audience a lot in this film and doesn’t talk down to us. He wants us to be on this ride with him and respects us enough to let us experience it on our own. That being said, I have a few issues with the film, one being the performances of the other two girls. They felt forced in the opening scenes, and would often say things that just felt out of character and wooden. There’s also a heavy exposition scene where Betty Buckley skypes into a press conference, and I personally feel it could either be shortened or removed entirely. The film also requires you to take a huge leap of faith for awhile, and due to how well the film was made, I hesitantly went along with it. In the end, taking that leap of faith was rewarded greatly. I will not discuss the ending, nor will I even remotely hint at it.
James McAvoy gives a terrifying career-best performance in Shyamalan’s best film since Signs.
(See the above video review for a more in-depth discussion)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
Run Time: 114 min