There was a time where M. Night Shyamalan was hailed as the next Spielberg or Hitchcock. Audiences flocked to his movies eagerly awaiting a thought-provoking thriller.
As the years went on however, his name became tainted. What started as “Oh wow! Shyamalan? I can’t wait!” after The Sixth Sense, eventually became, “ugh him again?” with The Last Airbender.
While 2015’s The Visit showed a promising comeback for the director, Split is finally the return to form we all wanted from the director and ranks among Shyamalan’s best work.
This is an engrossing, edge of your seat thrill ride that’s incredibly tense and captivating. Its unsettling and creepy tone create such an uneasy atmosphere, it’s what made previous Shyamlan movies like The Sixth Sense or Signs work so well.
James McAvoy stars as Kevin, a man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). One afternoon, he kidnaps three girls and takes them to an underground bunker of some sort for reasons that are not fully understood until the midway point of the movie.
Through the eyes of these girls, we the audience see a few of the other identities within Kevin. We see the physically intimidating OCD Dennis, a slightly gentle woman Patricia and a 9-year-old trouble maker Hedwig who we learn quite a bit of information from.
James McAvoy is outstanding in the movie. The movie rests on his performance and he delivers a perfect performance. One of the most impressive things is how he makes each of the 23 identities unique. One moment, one identity is speaking, and with such ease he’ll switch to another. It’s a brave and bold performance. It’s haunting, chilling, and he knows just when to be slightly humorous. It’s an incredible performance and one of the best performances in any Shyamalan Film.
Also good is Betty Buckley as the psychiatrist trying to help Kevin with DID. She is the leading doctor and has made a career out of trying to understand DID. She believes that these individuals are special with unique gifts that need to be understood. Through her we learn the information we need so we can come to understand just slightly what Kevin is experiencing. Throughout the movie the personality known as Barry makes frequent visits to her office and each visit has a feeling of dread. Each one seems to be building to something. These meetings are all handled very well.
Anya Taylor-Joy is also very good as one of the kidnapped girls. She’s the outcast who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her character is troubled, she seems detached from the situation at hand. As the movie progresses we see increasingly disturbing flashbacks to her childhood where we slowly understand who she is and where she is coming from.
This is a very well shot movie. It’s from the same cinematographer as It Follows, which was another remarkably beautiful looking movie. This is one of Shyamalan’s best looking movies. The use of light and shadows is utilized to the full extent. The camera gives perspective for each character and throughout the movie there is ample opportunities to see the situation from each character.
The real star of course is Shyamalan. Shyamalan is one of the best directors working today and Split is proof. This is a very well directed movie. Shyamalan uses closeups a lot in this movie and while a lot of movies rely too much on closeups and they sometimes get distracting, they work here because you see the hidden emotions the characters have. It’s the perspective spoken of earlier. The camera movements are all slow moving which builds up a feeling of dread and uneasiness.
Split is indeed a return to form for Shyamalan. It’s well written and well paced. It has incredible performances portraying great, well-rounded characters. Oh and the ending? Well let’s just say it’s one of the best Shyamalan endings…ever.
Definitely check this movie out.