Movie Review: "Split"
- by Steve Garcia, 23 January 2017
Directed by M Night Shyamalan, "Split" tells the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with 23 distinct personalities. After he kidnaps three teenage girls with some malicious intentions, the audience is taken on a wild ride to meet his emerging 24th personality. But here’s the real question: is that ride worth your tickets?
To begin, it was an absolute pleasure to watch McAvoy step out of his usual posh roles and showcase his immense physical acting talent, as he took on the daunting challenge of juggling all of those characters at once. Through masterfully subtle movements and eye contact, it was clear which personality was in the limelight, which if done incorrectly, would have shattered the entire film’s credibility. Giving credit where it’s due, the way Shyamalan was able to bring those personalities out of him that will make you wonder how he could have ever been responsible for the performance cesspool that was The Happening. In addition to McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance was remarkably strong and served her purpose as Casey, the teenage outcast and “leader” of the victims.
The story itself was effectively engaging, fun, and intense-- qualities that Shyamalan’s work has lacked for a regrettably long period of time. Like Signs or Devil, for example, his films tend to rely heavily on his patented twist endings while the rest of the story suffers from a wide variety of miscellaneous issues. But in Split, the big reveal at the end was the cherry on top of what was already a tasty sundae. It was reminiscent of The Sixth Sense in that not only was the payoff huge, but it urges you to revisit the film for another watch, as it contextualizes the whole thing for a different viewing experience.
As enjoyable as it was, however, Split still wasn’t free from error. The supporting cast was where Shyamalan’s weaknesses began to expose themselves. Between unrealistic decisions and interactions, Casey’s fellow captives were not only unsympathetic (they were prisoners after all), but were decidedly expendable from the moment the audience was introduced to them. Shyamalan’s use of flashbacks to fill the gaps of Casey’s past was also an issue. While they ultimately served their purpose, they felt misplaced in what could have been a much more fluid-paced product.
Taking its issues into account, though, it’s safe to say that the Shyamalanissance is real, and after recent critically acclaimed small-budget thrillers like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Don’t Breathe, he’s absolutely welcome back. For fans of his early work, you will walk out of this film satisfied, optimistic, and thirsty for more. And even if his style doesn’t mesh well with your tastes, it’s still worth the admission because of McAvoy’s stellar performance(s) alone.
Have you seen Shyamalan’s latest offering? Did you enjoy it or is your opinion split? Let us know in the comments!