Split


Director: M. Night Shyamalan.
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring: James McAvoy, Ana Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Izzie Coffey, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff, M. Night Shyamalan.

“An individual with multiple personalities can change their body chemistry with their thoughts”

When The Sixth Sense was released in 1999, it became an instant hit and has since entered popular culture. It’s director, M. Night Shyamalan, became the hot property in Hollywood and much anticipation followed his projects. However, Shyamalan has never quite reached the same level of quality. In fact, some of his films were so poorly received that he became synonymous with mediocrity or, in some cases, inspired unintentional laughter. To be fair to him, though, his ideas were always great but he just wasn’t able to deliver the finished product and his latest in Split suffers a similar fate.

Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man and held captive in a locked room. The more they interact with their abductor, the more they realise that he assumes different personalities. Plotting their escape, they try to work out which of his personalities might actually help them while the threat of a more dominant and malevolent personality waits to surface.
The problem that has seemingly plagued Shyamalan is that his twist ending of The Sixth Sense was such a rug puller that many audiences expected the same time and time again. No film has came close but Shyamalan has never wavered on trying to deliver them. His concepts actually operate on there being a catch so, in many ways, Shyamalan has consistently set himself up to fail. The ideas behind The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening, for example, all had massive potential but they all ended absurdly.

It’s not my intention to offer spoilers here but what I will say is that Split actually ties into one of Shyamalan’s earlier films. It’s only at the end that you realise this and, by that, it leaves you feeling duped again with yet another ending that feels misplaced. That said, it will appeal to fans of Shyamalan’s earlier work that have been waiting patiently for one of his particular stories to continue.
As a psychological thriller, Split has many positives going for it. It’s very well shot and achieves the requisite, claustrophobic atmosphere but it’s not the direction or cinematography that’s the biggest positive. It’s actually James McAvoy. Charged with delivering numerous characters throughout his split personality, McAvoy shows great range. He’s in danger of over-acting at times, but his ability to switch from one persona to another (to another) in quick succession is very impressive indeed. To be quite frank, without McAvoy’s committed performance(s) this film simply wouldn’t work. The problem he faces, though, is that he’s not given much to work with. The script is actually very lazy and it’s a wonder that he manages to make anything of it all. His commitment to the film actually demands more of a pay-off for him but sadly he’s not quite provided it.

McAvoy is the film’s anchor with an absolutely meticulous display of personalities and had Shyamalan stuck to his guns and focused on the job at hand, he might have produced a solid psycho-thriller. However, it’s his decision to tie this in to another genre that’s feels like a cop-out. As impressive as it’s delivered, it fell short for me.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Joaquin Phoenix was the original choice for the lead role but when he and the production couldn’t reach a contract agreement, James McAvoy was cast instead.

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15 Responses to “Split”

  1. I think 2.5 is too nice man. All the faults I agree with, especially the ending – ” it leaves you feeling duped again with yet another ending that feels misplaced.”

    YUP.

    But for me it took the piss out of DOD, while at the same time trying to legitimise it. I mean, people were laughing AT the different characters. It is so fucking unrealistic in its depiction of the illness, yet his doctor is trying to say that it is real.

    NOT LIKE THIS IT ISN’T!!

    Especially that last act. Ugh, just… so dumb. So dumb man. And again, I get you exaggerate to make a good movie, but I showed this to a close friend who has DOD and… yeah, he was just a bit offended by the absurdly different characters Kevin has.

    I do agree though that McAvoy was great and essentially makes an awesome performance out of not much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I considered that 2.5 was being generous. I didn’t not like it but it was as great as many had made out. For me, it was all about McAVoy. What he did with a lame script was quite impressive.

      Like

  2. You are right about Shyamalen, he’s never quite rebounded after Sixth Sense. I mean Signs was good, but everything else has sort of crashed and burned,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Still not sure about that ending. The follow up, ‘Glass’, will be with us soon enough. Hmmmm….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the end didn’t sit all that well with me either. It was decent but, again, Shyamalan seemed to run out of ideas and tenuously linked two films to the same universe. It wasn’t an easy fit!

      Liked by 1 person

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