You have to wonder if you have other identities inside of your head. Sometimes I think, “Maybe there’s someone in my head who’s cool.” But here’s something else to wonder: is M. Night Shyamalan getting back to his roots into writing and directing solid films? Perhaps trying to bring back the suspense into his style of filmmaking? Upon watching his new film “Split,” one thing came to mind: Norman Bates has nothing compared to James McAvoy in this psychological thriller that messes with your mind instantly.
In “Split,” Kevin, played by McAvoy, has dissociative identity disorder (DID). That means he has 23 personalities living inside of his head. One of them kidnaps three girls, holding them captive for an undisclosed reason. They are trying to find a way to escape while Kevin visits his psychologist (Betty Buckley) to find to what’s going on. But there’s another personality that we haven’t seen yet.
In the past few years, M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t been a name that screams “excitement.” To be sure, he’s given us some great movies like “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable” and “Sign”. But then it seemed that he lost his touch on filmmaking with “The Village” and “Lady in the Water”. And finally, it felt like he’d just completely given up on hope with “The Happening,” “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.” However, 2015’s “The Visit” was a huge surprise, and it looks like he’s back making good films. And “Split” is his best film since “Signs.”
Right off the bat, McAvoy is brilliant. He absolutely gives it his all into perfecting someone who has multiple distinct personalities. There were times where he was unrecognizable playing these characters. It felt like he was another person. Probably my favorite was Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy. This is quite possibly the best performance he’s ever given. If this were released in December, McAvoy would definitely be in talks for Oscar consideration.
Anya Taylor-Joy was terrific, giving another great performance. Even though I didn’t love “The Witch,” I will admit she did very well in it. There’s some unexpected development to her character, told through flashbacks that don’t make sense at first, but by the end we have a full grasp on what they mean.
Something interesting Shyamalan did while directing “Split” was realizing how to trust the audience with what he’s given to them. “Split” doesn’t dumb us down. The story is totally understood, up until the end, when the characters understand the truth of what’s happening to them. And when some things happened, I really had to believe they were happening, without questioning it. “Split” is the best-looking movie Shyamalan’s directed, as it has a claustrophobic feel throughout, similar to “10 Cloverfield Lane.” The musical score by West Dylan Thordson was tense and timely when it needed to be.
The only problem I had with this film was that it was pretty slow sometimes. Typically, that’s how the older Shyamalan movies are, but I felt the pace sometimes, especially during the second act. In addition, the two other girls seemed pointless characters when the movie cuts back to them.
Without spoiling anything, the ending was mind-blowing. Just thinking about it once it was over, it was unbelievable, leaving me still pondering some questions. In the end, I give Shyamalan a lot of credit for pulling off another good movie that doesn’t anger the fans, but put in perspective in a movie that’s well-acted, perfectly directed and has a great third act that’s pretty interesting. And it’s unpredictable, to say the least. If his next movie is as good, then he’ll be back to form as a promising director.
“Split” provided a creepy look at multiple personalities as a unique psychological thriller with an outstanding James McAvoy performance.