Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Ku Richardson and Betty Buckley
Three teenage girls are kidnapped by a lunatic and brought to his dungeon. Their fear turns into terror and despair once it becomes clear that their captor has multiple personalities. The personas reveal themselves quickly each briefly interacting but none of revealing a clear purpose for their capture. The only thing that is clear is “The Beast” a vague, murderous being is coming for them. The young women soon realize their fate depends on working together to find a way out before the beast is revealed.
James McAvoy is astounding as “Kevin”. He seamlessly transitions from persona to persona. Early on in the film, the personalities are revealed through the wardrobe with the stern Dennis in a neat gray slacks suit, matronly Patricia in long skirts with heels and 9-year-old Hedwig in a yellow hoodie and jeans. As the story progresses and Kevin’s psyche begins to unravel the personalities reveal themselves in other ways. McAvoy plays this part well from endearing to terrifying his expressions and the subtle nuances he adds give each of the personas depth and purposes. In one of the most important scenes in the film, McAvoy bounces from persona to persona in rapid succession as he unravels the magnitude of this actor’s commitment to the role is evident. Without visual cues his change in tone accent and vernacular is mind-boggling.
This fast paced thriller takes you on an emotional ride through madness and abuse. The film’s protagonist “Casey” (Taylor-Joy), is a troubled teen who’s only real crime is struggling to be a happy teenage girl. Invited to a party by the sweet popular girl only to end up trapped with the social butterfly and her bestie in some mad man’s cellar. As the others approach the situation with wide-eyed optimism she remains the cool voice of reason assessing their chaotic situation. She is the realist in all of us casually shutting down their naive plans and trying desperately to outfox the beast. Her calm measured responses are in alignment with her unique skill set, which is revealed to the audience in an ongoing series of flashbacks. Each flashback reveals the elements of her life and offers a little insight into her character. There’s an aha moment as her biggest secret is revealed and though the revelation isn’t shocking it successfully explains her resolve.
After a string of mediocre films “Split” may finally be the redemption M. Night Shyamalan needs. This film is exciting and interesting. the script is solid and thoughtful without being too heavy handed or esoteric. After the horrible “Lady in the Water” and disastrous “Last Airbender, “Split” may just restore our faith in Shyamalan. Admittedly it’s not the next “Sixth Sense”, there is no brain scrambling twist at the end. There is, however, a very telling cameo just before the credits that will leave fans speculating and guessing about Shyamalan’s next project.
Split hits movie theaters Friday, January 20th!