After turning a nice profit and showing audiences he is still a master of the plot twist in The Visit, it finally seems that M. Knight Shyamalan is crawling his way out of Hollywood purgatory. The once directing phenom even further proves his showbiz resurrection after duds like Lady in the Water and After Earth with The Sixth Sense director getting back to his slow burn thriller style in his new film Split starring James McAvoy. The film revolves around Kevin (McAvoy) and his 23 other distinct personalities that range from child like Hedwig, an Alpha female Patricia to a violent loner named Dennis. One day Dennis along with a few other personalities decide to abduct three teenage girls played by rising star Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Edge of Seventeen‘s Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula. From there Split turns into a psychological thriller as the girls try to unravel what is going on in the mind of their captor and what plans does he has for them.
If Unbreakable was Shyamalan’s version of the hero’s tale, then Split is the opposite focusing on the villain and his agendas. The movie is quite small in scale with most of the action taking place in a few rooms and hallways in Kevin’s secret liar. Just like the girls the rogue personalities have taken hostage, the audience sits and wonders who is going to open the door next to greet them. Will it be a friend, foe or something much worse? McAvoy shines playing all the wild minds that lurk in his head. He gets to be the creep, the diva and the beast in wild fashion. Anya Taylor-Joy as the damaged Casey gives a strong supporting performance, but make no doubt this is McAvoy’s show as his performance drives Split into dark places that will have you pondering what will happen next.
As stated earlier, Split gets back to Shyamalan’s early filmmaking roots so expect a slow burn. There are also times in the movie where things get a little slow dealing with Casey’s Flashbacks to her youth and Kevin’s Doctor played by Betty Buckley who has some very interesting theories about the different personalities that reside in one body. Most of these moments will have you wishing you were back in Kevin’s dungeon where the real excitement takes place, but these scenes are pivotal heading into the third act. There are certain plot points that may seem like a distraction in Split since there is already a whole lot going on in this little film, but they are necessary for Shyamalan to tell his story. It just seems he could have gotten his point across in less time which could have shaved twenty minutes off the run time making Split a tighter and more exciting film.
Even if Split spins its wheels at times trying to explain its plot, the film is still totally worth seeing thanks to the dynamic work of Jame McAvoy and an ending that will blow your mind harking back to M. Knight Shyamalan’s early days as director. Try not to let anyone spoil the ending, because it will ruin a few “Wow” moments in the final act. Let’s just say Split could open up a whole new world for the director to play in that will surely have fans excited as to what the future holds for Shyamalan’s next film project. There’s something no one thought anybody would be saying after The Happening.
Overall, I give Split 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell