Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan returns with an original thriller that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind. Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him – as well as everyone around him – as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
I went into the theater without knowing this was an M. Night Shyamalan movie, and somewhat cringed when I saw his name in the title sequence. He did some unbelievably good work with Signs, Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense, but I’ve been of the opinion he’s been coming up short with his most recent efforts. Unbreakable especially is still one of the best comic book superhero origin stories that comes to mind. The problem that I see with Shyamalan’s films is that he began to be known for having a ‘twist’ in his films, so when it happened everyone would roll their eyes and brush it off. His attempts at making films that didn’t have a major twist didn’t land very well, with The Last Airbender being unforgivably bad.
I had given up hope on him as a serious director and expected him to stay within the realm of cheaper movies and television series. I’m happy with Split though. Unexpectedly and enthusiastically happy. It’s his best movie in many many years in several ways. Shyamalan has never had problems with framing and visuals, even his worst films have been beautifully shot and Split is no different. There’s some dreadfully interesting scenes that would have suffered under another director, if only because of how bland and uninteresting the locations would have been if shot in any other light. The story is interesting enough if you look past the mostly Hollywood version of DID that’s displayed, but considering what eventually happens towards the end of the film, I can completely suspend my disbelieve. The third act and it’s resolution are absolutely spot.
I can’t give Shyamalan enough credit, this was an awesome movie, but all the credit for the movie’s success doesn’t go just to him, Anya Taylor-Joy plays the lead kidnapee, and she plays her part to perfection against James McAvoy’s titular character. Everything seemed to come together to make an excellent film that I highly suggest.