Split Movie Review
Split is the latest film by M. Knight Shyamalan who has taken a bit of a critical beating over the last decade or so with notoriously bad movies such as the Last Airbender, The Happening or After Earth. His new movie is a welcome return to form and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Unbreakable for me, it is definitely a worthy entry.
Now, if you are reading this then you have probably seen the film already and are looking for other points of view. If you haven’t seen Split yet then stop reading right now.
Still here? Then we’ll proceed.
James McAvoy plays Kevin, a tortured man with severe mental problems which were caused by traumatic events in his childhood. As a way of dealing with his childhood he developed multiple personalities, 23 in fact. McAvoy is wonderful in this film and his transition between his different personas was done with such class that he didn’t even need to speak for us to see a transformation. He acted the hell out of this movie and is probably the best ever single performance in a Shyamalan movie (yes even better than Jayden Smith in After Earth). Early on in the film one of Kevin’s personalities (who we later learn is called Dennis) kidnaps three teenage girls and locks them in his basement for reasons that become clear later in the movie. Anya Taylor Joy plays Casey (one of the abductees) who we eventually learn has also been subject to abuse in her life. Some of the flash back scenes were a tough watch and I know that they peeled back the layers of Casey’s character but they were a little on the nose. Anya Taylor Joy was impressive and portrayed her character in a quiet and understated way which was a pleasing contrast to McAvoys larger than life performance.
Eventually we learn that the young girls are being held for a reason, as a sacrifice for a rumoured 24th personality known as ‘the Beast’.
Now we are getting in super spoiler territory so this is your last chance.
The movie is peppered throughout with scenes featuring Kevin’s therapist. She believes that the condition Kevin suffers from (known as DID) can change a person physically. Her evidence to support her theory is a story of a blind lady who developed other personalities that believed they could see, ergo her body repaired her eye sight. This is where the film began to fall down for me. I like a high concept as much as the next guy but at this point in the film I would have been happier if this was just a straight up psychological thriller. Using the concept of being able to change your own physiology we learn that the Beast is in fact real and will eventually take over Kevin and his 22 other personalities.
At the start of the review I said that this was a return to form for the director and I stand by that. I did not enjoy the final act while watching for the first time and the whole Beast thing felt a bit out of place for me. The final reveal in the movie however changed the whole thing when we learn that Split is actually set in the Unbreakable universe (there I said it). When that reveal happens everything else fits into place as the rules established in 2000’s Unbreakable now apply to split.
Without considering the surprise ending this movie was still a triumph for M. Knight Shyamalan. It was shot well, the score was atmospheric and added to the tension, particularly towards the end of the movie. The best thing about Split is the performance by McAvoy and I wait with baited breath to see what happens with Kevin in a Split 2/Unbreakable 3 movie. Considering that Split had a reported budget of around $9 million and it looks to gross well over $100 million worldwide by the end of its run a sequel is all but an absolute certainty.