Unlocked from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan, Split is the twisted, compelling thriller that we have been waiting for since the director’s successful slew of movies such as The Sixth Sense, Signs and more recently, The Visit.
Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder as the catalyst to deliver a mind-bending thriller is a wicked idea, and even though past directors have used this disorder as a twist for their horror flicks, Shyamalan manages to not only entertain, but also draw sympathy for the kidnapper.
Three teenage girls are about to get a ride home when they’re abducted from a mall parking lot and taken to an underground cell where they’re held captive by Kevin (James McAvoy) – who is suffering from multiple personality disorder. Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), who are the cool kids in school and good friends, start to panic immediately. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), a lonely outsider who usually keeps to herself, appears quite calm despite the dire situation and soon takes control.
The girls become acquainted with three of Kevin’s personalities — Dennis, the obsessive compulsive guy who kidnapped them; Patricia, a poised woman; and Hedwig, a nine-year-old obsessed with Kanye West. Casey tries to appeal to Hedwig by attempting to befriend him. Hedwig warns them that they are being prepared for “The Beast.”
When Kevin is not watching the girls, Barry, one of his other personalities, goes to sessions with “their” psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who has met with most of Kevin’s personalities and realizes how special he is. Basically, Kevin has 23 personalities that come to light one at a time, but soon Dr. Fletcher senses there’s something more that she doesn’t know about.
Shyamalan’s nail-biting thriller is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. There are several brilliant twists in the film that you never see coming. By the end, I was not only satisfied with the well-polished, gritty dark film, but also appreciated how the director makes a statement about trauma and abuse.
The film wouldn’t be a success without James McAvoy’s brilliant transitions between personalities. His performance is praiseworthy. He gets into the skin of every one of the 23 characters with his diverse expressions, voice and body language. You can instantly tell which character he is channeling.
As much as I love McAvoy’s role in X-Men, this is one of his best roles to date. He’s quite effortlessly able to be menacing and sympathetic at the same time.
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) was the perfect actor to play Casey. She was naïve yet tenacious as the film slowly revealed her backstory. Going head-to-head with McAvoy, she kept the audience entertained as we rooted for her survival.
Shyamalan builds the suspense and keeps you hanging onto your seat until the end — and his signature twists are in true Shyamalan style.