“Split” Film Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Return to Form

AUSTIN VAN PAY | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

“Split” is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. He has been around the horror and thriller genres for many years now. Unfortunately, almost all of Shyamalan’s films after his early works like “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs,”  and “Unbreakable,” have been under much scrutiny from filmgoers. Thankfully, “Split” has broken that rocky streak for Mr. Shyamalan, who has finally returned to form and delivered a great film.

“Split” begins with great creepiness as three teenage girls are kidnapped by a mysterious man in their car. They soon find themselves waking up in a dingy and dark room, scrambling to figure out how to escape. We soon meet their captor and discover that there is something very wrong with him. Through scenes with both the girls and the man’s therapist, we discover he has multiple personalities, 23 to be exact,  stuffed into one mind. He suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder and internally struggles with conflicting personalities which fight for the spotlight. As the tension rises, Shyamalan’s film reveals a terrifying 24th personality waiting to be unleashed. The girls must escape at all costs.

Without a doubt, the absolute best part of this film has to be James McAvoy, who plays the man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. It’s incredibly fascinating and creepy to watch him play so many differing personalities. You get a true sense of character from the main six or seven personalities.  It’s amazing to watch.

As new personalities take the spotlight, you learn each of their ticks, vulnerabilities and motivations. These personalities range from the 9-year-old named Hedwig to Dennis, a man suffering from OCD, and even a seemingly sweet old woman named Jade. It’s worth watching this film just for James McAvoy, who gives one of the best performances of his career.

Dr. Karen Fletcher played by Betty Buckley also gives an excellent performance as James McAvoy’s psychologist. She struggles to dissect the man’s brain and communicate with all of his conflicting personalities. I can’t forget to mention that Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Casey, one of the kidnapped girls, did an excellent job in her role and was given a heart-wrenching and  mysterious back story for us to discover as the film went along.

The only gripe I had with the film concerned the two other kidnapped girls who were mostly disposable and didn’t add too much to the film overall.

Not only are there great main performances by McAvoy, Buckley and Taylor-Joy,  but the film also makes use of great cinematography by Mike Gioulakis (who worked on “It Follows”) as well as a very creepy tone-setting score.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan film without a twist ending. This ending will definitely leave many viewers scratching their heads, while others with have great big smiles on their faces.

It is important to note that this is a slow burn film and takes some patience to enjoy, but throughout its entirety I had a great time. I am happy to report that Shyamalan has finally returned to form.

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