Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a twenty-three distinct personalities. They must escape before a possible twenty-fourth personality emerges.
This is a showcase of McAvoy's ability, he not only plays multiple characters, but plays them in the same scene as he transforms before our eyes. His performance is engrossing.
What makes the protagonist, Casey, strong is the same thing that created the personalities in Kevin. Adversity and assault have the power to transform. The story builds as you wonder what's going to happen. Is there really a new personality? To say more would spoil it.
Split is a solid thriller with enough weird to make it unique. It's not as good as Unbreakable (2000) or The Sixth Sense (1999), and while I liked The Village (2004), it was the confirmation that all M. Night Shyamalan films were going to have a "I see dead people" twist to them.
This movie rejects that kind of twist, though it does have a big reveal that's more of a footnote than a plot changer.
The first scene sets up the outcast girl, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). She's at a birthday party for Claire as a pity invite. She agrees to a ride home with Claire's dad, Claire, and Marcia. The girls get in the car first, but the dad doesn't get in the car. It's a scene that's chock full of tension and will make you lock your car doors.
This is a movie that makes you wonder what's going to happen. What is the ultimate goal? We've got Kevin with multiple personalities who call themselves The Horde, three kidnap victims, and Kevin's doctor. The Dennis personality tells the kidnap victims their purpose is to feed the beast, but what does that really mean? All we've seen of the beast are crude drawings by Hedwig who is a nine year old boy personality.
The multiple personalities fighting each other makes this kind of crazy, but this movie leaves room to get much crazier. As you're wondering just how this is going to end, the movie has been developing Casey. She's strong not because of her ability or knowledge but because of her suffering. It's that same kind of suffering that has made Kevin stronger.
Kevin's doctor muses early in the movie that his multiple personalities are an evolution. He could be a glimpse of the full potential of the human consciousness. He's stronger because of them with sheer mental will changing even body chemistry.
Kevin's personalities want the impure, Claire and Marcia. They've never struggled or had to endure assault. The pure are the ones like Kevin and Casey who have been tested and broken, but are still standing. It's like crafting a steel blade. You heat it up and hammer out the impurities. If you haven't had to endure, The Horde doesn't consider you worthy.
McAvoy is amazing, playing multiple people and changing personalizes effortlessly in mid scene. While the characters dress differently to clue us in as to who Kevin is at the time, it's not necessary . McAvoy conveys it through mannerisms, speech, and pure expressions. Joaquin Phoenix at one time was in the lead for the role, but I don't think he could have done it justice like McAvoy.
The camera work is noticeable with a lot of odd angles. but it serves a purpose. Nothing is straightforward in the movie, and this is a surreal bad dream for the kidnap victims.
The last minute of this movie is a "Holy cow, this is amazing" moment. It's not so much a twist to the movie proper but it is a surprise. It changes how you look at this movie as a whole, and it also answers the question, "What is this movie?"