‘Split’ Movie Review: James McAvoy Delivers in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unhinged Return to Form

By now, many of you probably heard about Split, the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan which had it’s world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX last year in September 2016.  The festival is the largest genre film showcase in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and other fantastic movies from all around the world.  With that being said, it’s safe to say that Shyamalan has returned to form in full force in his latest and quite unnerving psychological thriller, Split.

Photo Credit:  Universal Pictures

To be able to make a great film about mental illness takes a monumental, well-orchestrated feat to pull off.  Shyamalan has managed to do it almost flawlessly, with arguably the most complex form of mental illness of all: dissociative identity disorder.  The film revolves around James McAvoy (Wanted, the X-Men prequels), who stars as Kevin, in which he brilliantly portrays 23 distinct personalities that’s trapped inside his consciousness.  McAvoy’s performance was extraordinary and dynamic.  I can only imagine how mentally and physically exhausting this role must have been for him.

Photo Credit:  Universal Pictures

The plot begins to unfold immediately after three high school girls, Casey (Any Taylor-Joy, The Witch, Morgan), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, The Bronze) and Marcia (Jessica Sula, Honeytrap) are abducted by Kevin and later held against their will in a basement of a unknown facility.  During the ordeal, the girls meet and interact with several of Kevin’s personalities, and they try to figure out a way to escape before our antagonist unveils his “Beast” alter-ego upon them.  If I was to compare this film to any other ones, it would have to be Identity meets Red Dragon.  It is truly a compelling and interesting film, bolstered by a delirious performance by McAvoy.

Photo Credit:  Universal Pictures

Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey, more than held up her end of the film as a not-so-helpless hostage with a heart-rending sidestory involving domestic abuse.  My only gripe is that the flashbacks to Casey’s childhood felt somewhat unnecesary and distracting from the rest of the film.  The other two girls, Claire and Marcia did a good job and played their roles well.

Photo Credit:  Universal Pictures

Helping Kevin deal with his disorder was Betty Buckley’s supporting role as Dr. Karen Fletcher (Carrie, The Happening), who was also Kevin’s psychologist.  I really enjoyed her character, which also helped raised the film to greater heights.  I can honestly say that Split is Shyamalan’s best film since 2002’s Signs, released nearly 15 years ago.  As we all acknowledge in his films, Shyamalan just can’t help himself without adding a twist at the end of the film.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s a strange attempt at linking the film to one of his older works.

Photo Credit:  Universal Pictures

Overall, the film’s premise executed smoothly and effectively.  The cinematography of the film was beautifully shot.  I’m not sure how closely Shayamalan worked alongside the film cinematographer, but the claustrophobic feel they were able to convey in film, specifically the scenes in the basement, it was amazing.  Without a doubt, Shyamalayan is back on track and I hope he stays there.  I’m really looking forward to watching this again on Blu-Ray.  If you love the best of Shyamalan’s movies (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs), you’ll love what he has in store for you.  Even though Split is not without a few flaws, I still fully recommend it.

What did you think of the film?  Is it worthy of an already-planned sequel?  Let me know what you think.  Thanks for reading!

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Split Official Movie Trailer:  


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