I’m in two places about this movie; torn you could say, uncertain… split. A respected director in dire need of resurgence impresses one part of me with a fresh and cool concept. The other part is annoyed, as this potential is squandered and we end up with a disappointing film with a plethora of misfires. Split is a case of ‘don’t believe the hype’.
23 personalities in one body, a kidnapping, suspense, and tension yep all that – it’s enough to sell the poster, and the trailer was tantalising with James McAvoy set to own the screen (he does) and with M. Night Shyamalan at the helm we could be assured of safe hands, albeit his recent failures in the last few years.
Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the leading teenager Casey Cooke; a loner and outcast who is kidnapped after a school friend’s birthday party with two other young girls by a menacing neat freak named Dennis played by James McAvoy. When she awakes in a makeshift home underground she finds Dennis isn’t their only threat. There’s Ms. Patricia, Barry, Hedwig; a whole bunch of people who all reside as a personality of a man named Kevin (Dennis included) and all are autonomous and self–sufficient entities in the one body. With the help of her two friends, Casey must devise a way to escape.
Simultaneously, there is a psychologist named Dr. Karen Fletcher who treats Kevin, and is one of the few clinicians who believes in the phenomena of people with dissociative identity disorder potentially being able to unlock the next level of human evolution – and that’s all I’ll divulge about that, better to see yourself. Her character merely exists as a vessel for exposition, her dialogue is weak which makes her acting poor, and her storyline is pointless, but she explains most of the plot for those who may start to lose track.
However, just like The Village for example, one of his previous films, the reveal twist reads well on paper but the execution of the whole product is a letdown and by then you’re not sure if you care anymore. The framing of some shots are awkward, the use of blurred focus, super close-ups and others the question arose how this adds to a story over a director trying to stamp is idiosyncratic mark on a movie.
In the end, it is still the best outing by Shyamalan in over a decade and worth watching, even if it is just for the amazing acting performances from its leading characters and the build up to the inevitable twist.