M. Night Shyamalan’s work often attracts a lot of love – at least, it used to. He’s responsible for modern masterpieces like the bold, superhero flick Unbreakable, and crop-circle chiller (and a personal favourite of mine) Signs. His more recent efforts have been absolutely abysmal however, with plots such as suicide-inducing air and creepy grandparents. Split has excited many fans though, with notions of a possible return to form.
Three girls are kidnapped by a man who at first seems like a lunatic, but turns out to have 23 personalities inside his body. However, hints of a 24th personality emerging mean the girls need to escape, quickly.
Now you must know, James McAvoy does not give 24 separate performances; it’s closer to 9. But, that is an ridiculous feat to accomplish, especially considering how fantastic each character is. From the intimidating Dennis, to the devilish Patricia, to the ‘9 year old’ Hedwig; it’s a showcase of true skill from McAvoy, showing versatility and passion for the role. If it wasn’t so obscure perhaps he would have gained an Oscar nod.
The movie as a whole however doesn’t go much further than ‘good’. The pacing is reasonable, but there a few flaws particularly in the writing. First of all, various characters apart from McAvoy and our leading girl, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, are devastatingly incompetent. The other two girls (Haley Lu Richardson & Jessica Sula) never shake the immature teen act, and seem to forget to want to get out. McAvoy’s therapist (Betty Buckley) is likeable, but surely she must have caught on to the horrible things his patient was up to; then again if she did perhaps there wouldn’t be much of a movie.
The film is at its best when McAvoy gets to experiment with his characters, going from one to another in a matter of seconds, continually pleasing the viewers whilst keeping us uneasy. Hedwig may grab quite a few laughs, but then Dennis will bring you back to reality. Quite often Split is funny – really funny, meaning it uniquely builds dread whilst keeping us smiling.
Nevertheless, it can be quite silly. The ominous ‘Beast’ may not always chill as it should, and a certain walkie-talkie sequence will anger you beyond belief. But it’s not likely you’ll stop grinning – Split has it’s problems, but damn it’s a fun ride. Without ruining anything as well, Shyamalan has took endings to the next level.
To sum it up…
Shyamalan managed to make me forget his previous shortcomings with Split. An utterly shattering, literally transformative performance from McAvoy will forever be this film’s greatest strength, next to something I can’t spoil so basically, go see it.
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Author: Cameron Frew