Split has been one of my most anticipated films after seeing the trailer circulating around Facebook many months ago and after a long wait I finally got to see if it lived up to the hype. I’m fairly new to M. Night Shyamalan’s work, but after my brief attempt at a classic movie-cation in the summer I fell in love with The Sixth Sense. I’ve read countless reviews of Shyamalan’s rocky journey after his three hits, but combining his classic style with James McAvoy proved to be a success.
As you probably know, the film is centred around Kevin who has 23 separate identities due to Dissociative Identity Disorder. The plot set up is somewhat basic, but serves its purpose. Kevin kidnaps three girls, including Casey, who naturally try to escape. From here on, the suspense continues to build in a rollercoaster of scenes, from the climactic highs of disturbing personalities and dramatic chases, to the comedic relief and information-giving psychiatric appointments. As each personality is introduced, Shyamalan captures a sense of impending danger, with speculation over the powers of the human mind being contemplated throughout. Of course, we can see exactly where the character development may go; however, this was clearly done for a subversive purpose, which was definitely achieved. The story was engaging throughout and at several points I found myself with muscle cramps or squeezing my leg too hard as a result of the tension captured on the big screen. I was truly gripped, constantly willing Casey and the others to survive. The thriller genre worked perfectly for this film, allowing Split to find the perfect balance of suspense without being jumpy and in your face horror for the sake of filling genre conventions.
I can’t review this film without praising James McAvoy’s incredible acting. Each personality was completely different, from a camp fashion designer, caring yet creepy female, and, my personal favourite, Hedwig the nine-year-old boy. McAvoy truly embodied each persona, building the reality of several identities within one body. The highs and lows are created from his talent, with moments of hilarity infused in the suspense of the dominating evil identities. The script allows for his acting abilities to shine through whilst creating an interesting narrative that made me want more. The real talent, however, comes towards the end of the film when the protagonist rapidly switches between personalities. Each miniscule change is depicted on the actors face in such a subtle way that we are questioning which identity is in power.
At first I was distracted by the use of flashbacks, which just seemed to serve as an obvious form of foreshadowing. It turns out that I was too quick to judge and that was only the beginning of their purpose. In true Shyamalan style, the drips of information suddenly fitted into the plot, adding dimensions to the characters that I never even imagined. This left me talking about the film all the way home and trying to tie up the pieces in the puzzle. Split certainly keeps the audience active and makes you think about the subtle undertones of the film. It was a pleasure to be an active spectator, instead of receiving a complete picture that does not involve any work.
I was totally in love with the unexpected, yet redeeming, ending that gave me hope. Without giving away major spoilers, all original Shyamalan film lovers should watch Split for this reason, and I will certainly be brushing up on his films in the future. The combination of beautiful cinematography, including a mixture of standard and point of view shots, and tension maintained for the duration of the film, despite moments of pure comical genius that had me laughing, ensured I really enjoyed Split. This was a really interesting concept that was executed well, with a lot of credit owing to James McAvoy. Whether you’re a fan of M. Night Shyamalan or not, this film is worth the watch and is a breath of fresh air from the hordes of typical Hollywood movies that dominate cinemas.