Split is a film written and directed by the somewhat controversial director M. Night Shyamalan. The filmmaker started his mainstream career at full speed and hit some serious career roadblocks but now seems to be on track with recent hit The Visit and TV series Wayward Pines. So how does his latest feature fare? Probably his best film since 2000’s Unbreakable.
The film centers on Kevin who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder and thus has 23 personalities living within him. Except some of his more malevolent personalities, called The Horde, believe that there is a 24th aptly dubbed The Beast. The Horde decides to kidnap three young women for The Beast while the benevolent personalities are trying to warn Kevin’s psychiatrist about the threat. But which side will prevail?
This is James McAvoy’s show. If he did not work as the man with multiple personalities then the film would not work at all. There is one scene where he has to switch personalities all while the camera never cuts away from him. Seeing subtle facial changes and demeanor and honestly believing that he has changed into a different persona. There are more better examples but that would be getting into spoiler territory. If McAvoy does not get some recognition for his performance than he is definitely being shortchanged.
Anna Taylor Joy as one of his kidnapping victims and Betty Buckley as his therapist are his main acting opposites and they help round out the film. Joy gets a more intriguing storyline as someme who is eerily calm during the ordeal and the reason why is slowly revealed through flashbacks. Buckley as the empathetic therapist is more of an exposition tool but has genuine character as she does care for Kevin and his personalities.
Shyamalan creates a neat bottle film that hits on various elements. It is one part a suspense thriller, one part horror and some parts comedy. It is a tricky balance to pull off especially the comedic elements but he manages to pull it off to create a cohesive film. This is a real return to form for the filmmaker.
Is it a perfect film? No but what is? There were some parts that I needed explained to me afterwards. Also the ending, if you do not know what it is referencing, will leave you totally confused. But overall it is a great film and will be interesting to see what is next for Shyamalan.