Certain directors have the ability to bring a slight shiver down one’s spine when their name is brought up in conversation. Some like Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg inspire and excite film lovers; others like M. Night Shyamalan give off a more bizarre and unknown vibe. After seeing his latest film Split I can say this next sentence which most haven’t spoken in years: M. Night Shyamalan made a good movie!
The film stars James McAvoy as a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder,in this case meaning that he has 24 very different personalities living within him. His character abducts three teenage girls from a mall parking lot and locks them in an unknown basement. As these girls get to know this man, they begin to meet his other personalities. Some of the personalities shown, like Hedwig the boy and Patricia the woman, bring to light the strangeness of the situation these girls are now in and also the inherent danger that lurks beneath the surface.
If you’re a fan of Shyamalan, you already know that his movies tend to be a little bit odd in nature. This movie was incredibly strange, but it had a much different feel to it in its pacing and tone. The trailer was what first attracted me to this movie mainly because the idea of multiple personalities in one person is fascinating. There is a lot of very interesting information for psychology-lovers throughout the story that is used to help explain McAvoy’s character.
This movie is marketed as a horror thriller that is the norm for Shyamalan’s style of filmmaking. Split is more of a psychological thriller with horror elements sprinkled throughout. The combination of McAvoy’s performance and Shyamalan’s direction made for a very unique experience for audience members. McAvoy deserves praise for his performance, or performances, in this film. Although you never get to see all 24 personalities fully, the ones you do get to meet each have their own characteristics and mannerisms. I was a bit skeptical that one actor could make multiple personalities come to life without sounding or acting the same for each, but McAvoy sure did a great job separating and exploring each of voices in his head.
Compared to McAvoy’s fantastic performance, the remaining characters in the film had a lot to compete with while on screen. The “leader” of the three kidnapped girls named Casey had the strongest performance of the three. She was the only girl who was refusing to play the victim and instead tried to understand and manipulate the weaker personalities. For the purpose of the back-story being told about Casey as a child, I understood her actions throughout the film and also why the other two girls were not as prominent.
There were a few complaints I had about the film as a whole. As I mentioned earlier, the audience never gets to experience all 24 of the personalities that you are told about. Although the ones you do meet are very interesting and complex both physically and mentally, when someone says I’m going to see 24 personalities in one man I would like to see all of them. The other issue I had with the film was the lack of a really big twist at the end like Shyamalan has become known for. The film does have a twist at the end, and it is relatively interesting, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for and also gave the impression that there might be potential for a sequel.
As a whole, Shyamalan created a film to remember with Split. In today’s cinematic world of sub-par horror films and predictable thrillers, this film serves as a breath of fresh air. James McAvoy gives a great performance and his personalities each had their own “moment in the light” as they did in the film. I do wish that the audience was shown more of the 24 personalities, but the ones shown were intricate to the story. Split is by far my favorite of Shyamalan’s films in the past ten years. Speaking of his older films, make sure you stay after the screen goes black for a very unique scene that will test your memory of Shyamalan’s older films.