Movie Review: Split

Undoubtedly many of you have probably heard about or seen the movie Split, the latest thrilling movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Split dominated the box office this past weekend, bringing in about $40.2 million dollars. Overall Split is a step in the right direction for Shyamalan and lets him shine as a director, but isn’t without its flaws. Not many directors have inspired controversy as much as M. Night Shyamalan. After his success with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the director found himself in a creative rut. As his budgets got bigger, his films got worse from movies like Signs to his last year effort The Visit. With Split, Shyamalan worked with a smaller budget that helped rein him in from his self-indulgent tendencies. This doesn’t mean the film is without its flaws, but it’s a solid film with one astounding performance from James McAvoy.

Let me set the stage for you: Beginning at the end of a birthday party, Split is about three teenage girls Casey (main actress - Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire and Marcia who get abducted by Kevin (played by actor James McAvoy), a man living with dissociative identity disorder. A childhood trauma fractured Kevin’s psyche into 23 different personalities, and one of them has a fetish for doing lewd things to young girls. Helping Kevin live with his disorder is Dr. Karen Fletcher (played by actress Betty Buckley), a psychiatrist who attempts to help integrate him into society. These three girls try their hardest to escape while having to deal with the many personality disorders that live inside Kevin. Right from the start Split grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. The opening sequence is incredibly creepy and while the film isn’t necessarily scary, it is thrilling. It does tend to get bogged down in over-explaining things (a little too much for me), but the film is exciting from start to finish. There are just a couple of issues with the storyline and casting (but don’t want to spoil anything) that prevent Split from being truly great.

My Point of View: If anything, kudos to James McAvoy, who steals the show. He was able to fall into a character or “23 characters” almost flawlessly. The mannerisms, speech patterns and little ticks he gives each of his alters are immediately noticeable. You almost wish that more time was spent exploring all 23 of the alters (only about 6 personalities were explored), but what Shyamalan has given us is fascinating to watch as McAvoy transforms into these characters. There are a few moments where the alters converse with each other through Kevin that send chills up the spine. The entire film could have been McAvoy alone in a room talking to himself and it probably would have been great. I would have loved to see more of him uncovering the personalities that live inside of him. Actress Anya Taylor-Joy does what she can with her supporting role, but she isn’t given enough material to truly shine. Shyamalan tries to over explain her disturbing backstory involving domestic abuse, but it adds a certain amount of grossness to the film that it almost feels like it belongs in another movie. 

The Twist: Lastly (and I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible), one can’t discuss the film without mentioning its final minute. The contents of the ending are so awesome that you walk out talking and gossiping with fellow movie goers that it makes you want to forget some of the flaws that came before it. Almost. Still, it’s a fun twist for Shyamalan to pull off and it pays off well. Warning: Avoid any social media talks about the film, as having the Split ending spoiled would suck. Even though Split has its flaws, there is still plenty here to recommend. Shyamalan back at the top of his directing game, a good thrilling seek type of movie, and McAvoy’s performance alone earns the film a full recommendation.

Let me know your thoughts if you have seen this movie. I rate it a 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. -xo Mel