Split is a mystery thriller and the latest film from director M Night Shyamalan, centred around 3 girls who are seemingly randomly kidnapped by a mentally ill man with split personality disorder, the film stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Hayley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula.
Ah Mr Shyamalan, after all these years, he still manages to hook audiences with intriguing premises, this time around based around a an unpredictable and antagonistic main character, the split personality man (let’s call him Dennis for simplicity) played pretty frighteningly by James McAvoy, embodying the multitude of personalities that he conveys, Split is very… different. We uncover things about the man just like the three kidnapped girls, finding out new facets of his personalities and his characteristics, with McAvoy playing wholly different people with different accents, behaviour and mannerisms, which in itself is no mean feat for an actor and he puts in a pretty good effort all things considered. This aspect of the film may seem like a bit of a gimmick to some and just a bit too ridiculous to watch for others but in terms of Shyamalans’ outlandish premises for films, this probably isn’t his craziest.
There is some palpable tension in the film of course, with the man being so unpredictable, you don’t know what he’ll do or which personality he’ll manifest next, so that element of the story keeps you on your toes as a viewer and while you may ‘predict’ certain things to come or see them go a certain way, I definitely didn’t really see any sort of ending and was curious to see how things would pan out. Some thriller tropes are played into a bit but Shyamalan avoids the cheaper tricks as it were, like jump scares. Split is probably defined as a bit of a slow burn, with some pretty measured pacing, not to the point of it being boring but certain sub plots do break up the action, which can be a bit of an annoyance as you probably want to get back to the main plot, though in saying that, the sub plot of teenager Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) one of the kidnapped girls and her eventful past, is one of the more interesting parts of the story.
One thing you can say about the film is that it has some… well two interesting, complex characters, with Casey and of course, ‘Dennis’, people who are both evidently changing and coping with past traumatic stress. Meanwhile other sub plots explore ideas on the human brain and identity, which feels a bit left field in relation to the main story but I really tried to go along with it, as ridiculous as some plot points got. And then came… the final third, the plot sort of lost me with the way things went and I feel things could have ended on a stronger note, Shyamalan just quite can’t nail the landing with his film endings these days which a shame and it definitely detracted from the whole film.
Ultimately Split is just a really peculiar film, with some fairly strong performances from McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, I feel like it could have played out better as a straight thriller and while there are some tense and gripping moments for sure, Shyamalan syndrome strikes in overdoing some things in favour of some odd and unnecessary theatricality which does lessen from the final product in my opinion, which is a decent, if strangely constructed thriller.
. Has some great performances, McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are great
. The more intimate moments are well done
. Weak, silly final third
. Plot takes a while to get going