Director: M Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson
Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities.
Review: The success of The Sixth Sense has been hard on M Night Shyamalan, as he has struggled to make a film as sublime as that one. And while Split has been doing good business at the box office, I personally feel that he hasn't quite made a complete turnaround just yet.
In Split, three girls: Casey, Claire and Marcia, are kidnapped by Kevin, a man who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID). He has 23 personalities in total, with the dominant ones being Dennis, who is obsessive compulsive, Patricia, who is reminiscent of Norman Bates' mother, only slightly nicer, and Hedwig, a nine year old. The girls try to escape but eventually discover that Kevin is manifesting a 24th personality, one that is extremely dangerous and will most certainly kill them.
The idea of a person with multiple personalities as a story's protagonist (or antagonist, depending on the scene in this case) has been done before, though perhaps not as ambitious as this film. For this to work, Shyamalan needs an actor that can bring forth many identities and make them convincing. Thankfully, James McAvoy is more than capable for this task. He turns in a tour de force performance as Kevin and seven other personalities throughout the film. It's a pity that Shyamalan didn't make time for the other identities to show up as we only got to see one third of the total, but it's understandable this was done probably to make the film more concise. Anyway, McAvoy is excellent and should have been given attention this awards season.
However, I have to mention the film's main weakness, which is Shyamalan's uneven direction and writing. The premise itself is intriguing, but personally I felt it would be better to view the story only from the eyes of the three girls and Kevin himself. Shyamalan inserts Kevin's psychiatrist, Dr Fletcher into the mix, most likely to guide the less informed members of the audience on DID, but her presence in the film becomes more of a hindrance than a plus. Every time she is on screen, the film slows down. Shyamalan also fails to generate enough suspense here. I mean, this is a kidnap film too, right? So where's the suspense? And lastly, Shyamalan spends too much time giving us flashbacks of Casey's past, which in a way influences how she deals with the situation at hand. I felt there were too many scenes of these, and they could have been lessened in favor of expanding the other two girls' characters perhaps.
Anya Taylor-Joy excels in the role of Casey, obviously the smartest of the three girls, so much so that the other two seem very disposable in comparison. While Taylor-Joy is great here, it is McAvoy's film through and through. The entire film hinges on his performance and he does not disappoint.
All in all, I found Split to be a bit underwhelming despite a superb performance by McAvoy and a surprising but unnecessary cameo at the end. Even so, it's still worth checking out. (7/10)