Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley.
M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t enjoy the most celebrated career, after universal praise for his first two movies The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable he suffered a prolonged period of critical malaise only to bounce back last year with the surprisingly enjoyable The Visit. How does his latest offering stack up?
Kevin is a man who suffers from a multiple personality disorder, no less than 23 distinct personalities inhabit this troubled young man. One day Kevin is compelled to kidnap 3 young women. These women must now convince one of Kevin’s dominant personalities to free them before the arrival of Kevin’s 24th and most brutal persona, ‘The Beast’.
I guess A certain amount of overly judgemental critique should be left at the door before viewing a film that takes more than a little artistic licence with such a delicate subject, I’m sure there will be more than enough self-righteous people up in arms about this movie without me grabbing my torch & pitchfork as well. This is primarily a work of flight of fantasy, an absurd ‘what if’ horror movie rollercoaster ride if you will. It can not be viewed with any sense of seriousness and has to be viewed with a sense of willing abandon to truly enjoy. The fact that it is wonderfully written, directed and executed certainly helps. Sure, it does fall foul of some rather predictable horror movie tropes that will have you sighing heavily at the screen on one or two occasions but enough invention is on show the rest of the movie to allow these moments to pass muster.
The film is utterly stolen by an amazing turn from James McAvoy, chewing the scenery with glorious abandon and absolutely acting/batshitting his arse off in the various personas of Kevin, it is a fine line that is walked with all the dexterity of a tightrope walker in its delivery and is a joy to behold. Fresh from her great turn in The Witch last year, Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent in Split, she may be embodying the horror trope of the scream queen but she does it really well, likeable and sympathetic throughout. Betty Buckley’s therapy scenes with McAvoy are an amazing sparring match between the two, a battle of wits that is brilliantly played out.
As is traditional with a Shyamalan film there is a twist, this is no spoiler, it is his own directorial trope that he has stuck to throughout his career and this is a stonker, it really, really is, the kind that will make a fan boy make an odd little squeaky noise when it happens, well I did anyway, it was great. I will not speak any more of this because it NEEDS to come as much as a leftfield, jaw-drop surprise as it did to me. Maybe I’m building it up too much, maybe I have let this particular twist totally run away with me but for me it was awesome and made a already great movie just that little more special.
If you are a fan of Shyamalan when he is on point, he hasn’t been this on point in years, Split is a triumphant return to form that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as his illustrious early work. What I will say is this, DO NOT let anyone spoil this movie for you, try not to read anything that looks spolierific online, you will want this movie to come as the incredible, pulse quickening surprise that it is.