Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Sula, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley
Film Review by Ashley Olson
M. Night Shyamalan has experienced both sides of Hollywood, he created one of the greatest twists in cinema history in The Sixth Sense, he then went on to craft wonderfully emotional character driven stories in Unbreakable and Signs, but then started to come chinks in the amour while The Village was very hit and miss among audiences. This was followed by further hits to his reputation in After Earth and The Last Airbender, it looked like Hollywood was done with M. Night Shyamalan but with Split the director returns back to what he does best, telling grounded stories with interesting characters, and is not just his return to form but it also ranks up there as one of his best.
Spilt stars James McAvoy as Keven a man with DID (split personality disorder) who kidnaps three girls (Jessica Sula, Anya Taylor-Joy and Haley Lu Richardson) the film flicks between the girls trying to escape and Kevin visiting his therapist (Betty Buckley).
Anyone expecting a simple escape/torture movie or a very accurate look into the workings of DID is going to be disappointed, but it’s the performance of the cast and the clever writing that stops this being an insult or something that has been done before.
James McAvoy gives the performance of a lifetime, in a role that he could have easily have gone over the top with, he brings so many emotions to the table and yet he handles it with such ease he brings a wonderful sense of unease, one moment he can seem terrifying the next warm and approachable, these changes often in very short spaces of time that you’re never quite sure if he is the villain or the victim. He has come such a long way since Shameless.
Anya Taylor-Joy is another standout performer, she is clearly different from the other girls and it’s her backstory which is slowly told throughout the film which explains her difference and it’s this that makes her so compelling to watch. Again with what could have been an over the top performance, for someone so young and having to deal with difficult issues, she never seems over burdened with all that’s thrown at her.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for Split above.
The pacing of the film is also a credit to Shyamalan because with not many characters to choose from there could have been moments where the film dragged but in turn due to the wonderful writing and standout performances you're constantly intrigued as what’s happening and why. As I mentioned earlier this isn’t your standard kidnap film (which it so easily could have been) due to the superb script, you're never quite sure how Kevin will react when one of the girls does something wrong or which one of his personalities is waiting. Also for a film which has many dark themes running through it there are surprisingly small amounts of humour (largely down to McAvoy’s performance these moments never seem out of place).
I would call this more a tense thriller rather than a horror film as the camera work seems to reflect that, often you will see tight camera shots of long dark hallways giving a sense of isolation and the sense that there is no escape from the girls' nightmare, while when Kevin is in the room with his therapist it's often light and the camera is at a distance to represent a sense of a safer environment and a calmer Kevin.
Split is a tense physiological thriller that elevates itself above others, and into something very special, by its superb writing and fantastic performances. If you’re an M. Night Shyamalan fan craving a return to the old days then you need to see this film but for anyone looking for a good thriller you definitely will not be disappointed with Split.