Love his movies, hate them, or maybe a little bit of both, you have to admit M. Night Shyamalan never gave up. No matter how many stink bombs he tried to shove down our throats, he kept coming back with another one. Sixth Sense was great, Unbreakable was pretty good, and Signs was decent if not a little bit silly with one major plothole, being why the fuck would these aliens try to conquer a planet that is mostly water when they’re allergic to the stuff. After that, The Village belonged in a litter box, The Last Airbender should have been counted as a human rights violation, and The Happening was about as entertaining as fromunda cheese. He had some other movies thrown in there, but I’ll admit I didn’t see them and had no interest in seeing them. His schtick of having a big twist in every movie had run stale, and I honestly came to the conclusion he had got lucky early in his career with a couple solid films.
Then along he comes with this movie Split, and as soon as I saw the trailer I figured it would be more of the same Shymalan shit (say that ten times fast) but I have to say, I was wrong. Shockingly, it was actually a well-acted, tense, entertaining thriller. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. Split is about a man named Kevin who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, meaning he has a bunch of alternate personalities living inside his body. 23, to be exact. These personalities range from a rigid, germaphobe, OCD pedophile named Dennis, to a manipulative woman named Patricia, then to a 9 year-old boy named Hedwig. It would have been so easy to make this a goofy, lame, unintentionally funny movie but it’s not, and that is really because of James McAvoy. He does a really great job of making you believe that all of these personalities truly are different people, even when he plays the weird little kid. His voice and accent changes, his speech patterns, his body motions, his facial gestures, everything is different from one personality to the next. It really was impressive to watch, and without him I don’t have a doubt this movie would have been something more in line with M. Night’s previous clunkers.
I really won’t dive into the story too much, because there are a lot of things that have to be seen unspoilered. So I will only give the basic plot, which if you’ve seen the trailer you probably have surmised on your own. Three teenage girls, Claire, Marcia, and Casey, are leaving a birthday party. Claire and Marcia are friends, but Casey is known around school as a troubled outsider who Claire only invited to her party because she would have felt bad to invite their whole class and not her. Claire’s dad offers to give the three girls a ride home, and when they are getting in the car James McAvoy ambushes the dad and abducts the three girls. He locks them up, they don’t know why, and the rest of the movie is really about them trying to find out what he wants and appealing to one of his personalities to help them escape. Kevin’s therapist Dr. Fletcher also plays a pretty big role throughout the movie, as one of Kevin’s identities has sessions with her often.
Normally I dislike teenage girls in movies, but these three were not bad. I thought Claire was a good person, she is strong and wants to fight. Marcia is probably given the least to work with out of the three, but she was still believable and wow she has a really, really nice ass. Like wow that thing is huuuuuuge. (I felt kinda creepy writing that, but it’s ok the actress is 22. Nothing to see here) Casey is the main character of the girls, and who we spend most time with. She is a character with layers, who could rather try to find out what their captor wants from them instead of fighting. Eventually, and I promise no spoilers, they learn that Kevin is housing a new identity, referred to as “The Beast,” and that he is very bad news for the girls when he arrives. And that is all the plot I will tell you, because the rest you really have to see for yourself.
So a lot of strong things in play here, but there were of course a few things I didn’t like. Some of the characters’ decisions just felt idiotic to me, like failing to adhere to common sense. It also feels a little too long at 2 hours, and certainly dragged in the middle for me. There are a few things that happen towards the end that kind of took me out of the movie a little bit, and I know that’s vague but I am really trying not to spoiler. I just thought the movie was trying to be very realistic, and at times it isn’t. But by the end, you’ll be ok with it.
You might be asking if there’s a twist, and all I will say is yes. A pretty good one, that I didn’t see coming at all. And I will leave it at that. James McAvoy does a stellar job playing a diverse cast of characters, and most impressively makes you believe everything he does. The supporting characters are all done very well, the whole tone of the movie is nice, and there are some legit disturbing and tense moments. The movie has its flaws, but especially compared to the absolute horse shit that Shyamalan has turned out, this one is a winner. I can’t believe I am saying this, but good job Shymalan.
My Score: 7 out of 10