Directed/Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Betty Buckley
Run Time: 1h 57mins
Genre: Horror, Thriller
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
I didn’t know what to expect from “Split”. I was very nervous about it and I’m very pleased to announce it was very good. I can’t say enough about it, in fact. More to the point, I can’t say enough about James McAvoy’s performance. If his talents were ever in doubt, they certainly will not be now. His work has to have been extremely difficult, yet he made it seem completely effortless. I’ll explain. The trailer for this film doesn’t actually show, a nice change might I add, the fact that the main character McAvoy plays someone in such deep mental distress that he has literally shattered. It reveals a touch of the fact that this person has split personality disorder but doesn’t give away how bad it is and to the extent that the original personality, Kevin, is controlled. The reason for the the personality splitting is revealed but I don’t want to give away too many details.
In the film, Dennis, who is often “in the light” or the one in charge at the moment, decides to kidnap two girls he had been following. A third is a victim of circumstance and is grabbed, as well. She, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), has a past to her that is divulged in flashbacks and when Casey addresses the situation she’s in with shock but not with terror, you understand why. You wonder what’s inside her as well and Taylor-Joy, with her large eyes that penetrate you through the screen, does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing.
That’s the true premise and brilliance of the film. This is an excellent vehicle for Shyamalan to prove he’s an actor’s director. Is it the perfect film? Not by a long shot but you cannot miss these performances. If you are into acting or performance art in any fashion, you have to study what Shyamalan has achieved, especially with McAvoy. They work beautifully together, actor trusting director, and McAvoy gives everything he has to not only be more than one person on screen but twenty-three different personalities. He shows, continually, that he is a magnificent actor when at one point the camera is on him and he’s one person, then it pans to a mirror and he’s another, it pans back again and he’s another and back again. It’s fascinating. Several times he turns these people on and off. It’s riveting. He is, frankly, amazing in this juicy role.
Shyamalan couldn’t have picked better. And that goes for the rest of the cast as well. Everyone was quite good… except Shyamalan himself, who always likes to find a part in his movies somewhere where he can tinker with his love of the profession. However, he makes a bad choice for himself. He has ten acting credits to his name and has fourteen director credits. He obviously likes to act. In the scene he has injected himself into in “Split”, he’s not bad, per se, he’s just not at all necessary. The scene does nothing for the film and in fact, distracts his audience from what’s exciting them up to this point.
There are a few convenient set-ups but they in no way take away from the film. Buckley, as the therapist, is sweet and caring and shows intelligence but when she wanders where she shouldn’t have, you wish Shyamalan hadn’t gone there but that’s okay. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, consumed by what you’re seeing. And as I already do, you’ll be setting up a time to go and watch this movie again.