Three girls are abducted by a man with multiple personalities and unimaginable power. Now, they must figure out a way to survive.
“Split” is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who is known for films like “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” and “Signs.” It stars James McAvoy as a man with Dissociative identity disorder who abducts three teenage girls, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula. Joining them is Betty Buckley, who plays Dr. Karen Fletcher, a psychologist who has been working with McAvoy’s character and is primarily in the film as a means of exposition to explain his condition and the abilities that stem forth from it.
Over the past few years, people have started to lose faith in M. Night Shyamalan. He had a string of terrible movies and even started to become a punchline at one point. In 2015, however, Shyamalan started to turn that opinion back around by returning to what got him noticed in the first place with the small scale horror thriller “The Visit.” Now, he returns to that formula yet again and delivers another solid offering in “Split.” This winds up being a great, slow-burning psychological fantasy thriller with some stellar acting if you can get over the initial slowness at first. James McAvoy is brilliant as Kevin and his many other personalities. He really shows his versatility as an actor here. His ability to create numerous different characters within the same body by changing his speech, mannerisms, habits, and even his body chemistry is exactly what an actor dreams of being able to do. He’s excellent in this picture and the movie is worth watching for McAvoy alone, though he is not the only good performance. Anya Taylor-Joy also does a fine job as Casey, the main focus of the three abductees. Taylor-Joy is able to deliver a strong emotional performance as someone in a perilous situation who already has faced a lot tragedy in her life. She is seemingly seasoned in how to prepare herself for such terrible circumstances, though we do wish Shyamalan had kept the tight shots of her face to a minimum because they seriously happen every 5-10 minutes. Sula and Richardson don’t get a whole lot to work with in their more limited roles, but for the times they are on screen, they create an effective show of panic and determination to get out of their situation.
“Split” is very engaging at times. We found ourselves enthralled for a good portion of its run time, though there were points towards the middle of it when we wondered if there was something bigger at play. By movie’s end, it all comes together and explains why Kevin is able to do what he does, so just let it happen, but go into the film knowing as little as you can. This previously unearthed prospect leaves us extremely excited for M Night. Shyamalan’s future, and maybe, just maybe, the old and new will converge at some point.
Our rating: 3.5/5
“Split” is directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Betty Buckley. It is rated PG-13 for some intense, disturbing themes and behaviors, violence, and brief language.
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