Writer/ Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Production Company: Blumhouse/ Blinding Edge Pictures
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Budget: $10 Million
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya-Taylor Joy
Plot: After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.
FilmGamer : Am I getting old? It seems all the things that used to bug older critics now bug me. M. Night Shyamalan had received a lot of criticism in his heyday for his storytelling tactics used in Unbreakable, Signs, The Village and The Happening. All movies which I am controversial enough to admit I liked and whose twists didn’t bother me at all. The end results employed in his film; the confining nature of a valuable premise, a questionable twist or non-twist. By now Shyamalan (in his forties) has become skilled enough to use any and all those elements in his favour and on a smaller budget. Further showcasing his growth, the camera work is better, the music is just as good, the performances are more consistent but I wasn’t completely onboard with this film because to me there wasn’t enough going on here to wrap me in, and all the things that critics complained of back in the day are what irritated me here, which is really perplexing for someone who is a big fan.
I didn’t go into this film thinking that the dissociative personality disorder concept would be taken seriously from anyone so I wasn’t worried about it broadcasting bullshit about mental illness. I was surprised right before I left to see it that a colleague who had held those opinions, and after watching it and hearing Arclas’ views I’m surprised there’s been pickup on it which is somewhat vexing as I feel it puts a negative spin on the mentally ill. If you can go into this movie though ignoring that, that should be a fair hurdle to climb.
I for one am not as taken with James McAvoy’s performance. I think it is good as there are moments like how Hedwig (one of McAvoy’s characters) moves around the room that really score, but to me it’s just a good character that’s well directed and doesn’t boost McAvoy’s talent meter for me. To me he is a decent actor with good taste like Keira Knightley no better here than he was in X-Men: First Class or Atonement. For me the female lead Anya-Taylor was much more convincing probably because she tackles an easier role of an outcast teenage girl. However it is distinctive to her last role and the way the camera captures her sly expression and expressionless face is beautifully subtle.
The unfair take I am giving this film is one of the weight of expectation. I was hoping for a slimmed down minimalist thriller with a good mix of scares (it’s not scary) with a satisfying layer of intrigue (almost) but of course it just settles into a well done thriller (M. Night like many working directors is hit and miss with third acts). There are a lot of thematic motif’s for me that are drawn upon in the film, the difference between men and women behaviours the separation and connection the main characters have to one another, that show promise that I don’t think are taken care of as well as they could be. But there is enough strong imagery here (namely the main characters, the ground lowered camerawork) but particularly the beastly reveal that at least compliments a prime cable/ Netflix recommendation 7.5/ 10.
Split opens it’s the audience to the idea of multiple personality disorders and how good of an actor James McAvoy is. He plays Kevin with 23 different personalities simultaneously, flawlessly. Kevin trusts his life and mental health with his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who helps him realize his own potential and helps keep his personalities in check. This evidently stacks against his duty-bound drive to feed to “The Beast” (a possible 24th personality) as he abducts three teenage women.
This movie sheds light on physiological disorders and how they can affect more than just those that suffer from them, but also everyone around them. Split does over-do some actual aspects of multiple personality disorder but the elaborated maladies did make for an excellent film while still portraying a suffering man. Another note that this film does well, is that others are prone to jump right into the underlying causes of emotional turmoil. This is typically overdone in a graphic manner to get you where you need to be to sympathize with the character but this one stayed true to its established present reality and when presenting Kevin’s past, it did so with an essence of grace and respect for the character. It showed not that he was a victim, just that his childhood really sucked and as a result, multiple personalities.
M. Night Shyamalan is a great director known for his twists in film. This movie definitely has a subtle one but Split has what Mr. Shyamalan does wonderfully too and that is the artistic film shots adding to the suspense of the movie. Scene after scene there are twists and great camera work as you are unsure of the personality McAvoy will portray and if he will bring joy or darkness to his captors. The script was well written and the movie was well-directed. It delivered everything that I was expecting and more and as soon as the credits began rolling, I already wanted to see it again. 9/10
Movie Mashup: Arclas-Take Red Dragon villain and pair him with a woman and a child. Then incorporate the Grudge and Fight Club. Split personalities with a need to kill to teach others a lesson.
FilmGamer: Shyamalana-dingdong Thrillers- 1. Signs/2. The Sixth Sense 3. Unbreakable 4. The Village, 5. [This Film] 6. The Happening 7. The Visit 8. The Lady in the Water
Be sure to check out the rest of the film reviews and our 2017 movie preview for more!