Split marks a welcome return for M. Night Shyamalan
In this day in age, the thought of an M. Night Shyamalan film may send shivers down your spine. Movies like The Lady In The Water or Avatar: The Last Airbender may still very much be engraved in your mind. Shyamalan did show some good signs with his found footage creep fest, The Visit, however, Split is the movie where he finally redeems himself.
Cassie (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a weird, introverted kid. Everyone kind of feels bad for her so much so that Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) have invited her to their party out of pity. When preparing to leave, Kevin (James McAvoy) drugs and kidnaps the three girls.
Trapped in an unknown place, the three girls start to see that Kevin may not be what he seems. Living inside him are 23 personalities which include, Patricia, Hedwig, and Dennis. Each of the personalities mentions plans connecting to “The Beast.” As the three girls are desperately trying to make sense of this, Kevin, in the form of his personality Barry, visits his psychologist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckle), who tries to help him. Producing a sort of gateway to understanding just what Kevin is and what are his plans for the girls.
James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy produces one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while in an M. Night Shyamalan film. McAvoy flawlessly switches between personalities. Using small various accents and tones, postures and characteristics, he lets us know which eccentric character has taken “the light.” On the other hand, Joy delivers her performance in a quiet and mysterious fashion. She proves that, although her demeanor is rather soft, she is the most intelligent of the group. Getting to know her more in some disturbing flashbacks, her character becomes someone to root for.
Shyamalan is able to masterfully craft a mostly claustrophobic thriller. Relying on tight camera work and a minimalistic score, Split never escapes from the suspense and dread his team has sculpted. Shyamalan has finally gone back to where he trust his audience to get what’s going on. Apart from a Skype call explaining to the viewer what is Dissociative Identity Disorder, the director doesn’t explain much of his story. He has confidence in his script and his audience enough to let them figure out what’s going on.
Patience is the key here. Shyamalan channels The Sixth Sense in the way he decides to tell his story. This isn’t your straight forward horror movie nor is it a straightforward thriller. Building on each scene with the help of his great leads, he is able to keep you engaged for the 2-hour long movie.
As a result of his confidence, Split can overcome much of his flaws and controversial aspects. I’m still not entirely convinced of the way it decides to portray mental illnesses. Though it is much different than what other movies have done in the past, it is still irresponsible and questionable. Some of how Kevin’s personalities interact with each other make inconsistencies. The two other leads aside Taylor-Joy seem like they don’t exist within the same world as her. The dialogue they deliver is often irrelevant and pointless.
If you are a big Shyamalan fan, you’ll definitely be rewarded. If you aren’t a big Shyamalan fan, then you might want to brush up on some of his earlier films. To fully understand where Split may be going, it’s pivotal that you have patience and trust in Shyamalan even if you may have lost it in the past.
Split is released on January 20.