M. Night Shyamalan movies used to be big events and known for their twists. As he became a bigger director, less constraints were placed on him by the studios, and the movies began to decrease in reception. After that point his reputation almost became laughable and studios could not rely on him. He eventually teamed up with Blumhouse Productions (known for low budget horror movies) for The Visit which garnered decent reviews. By the time Split was about to release rumors were already starting to swirl about what the twist would be and whether this would mark the return of Shyamalan. My issue with knowing there is a twist in a movie is that I cannot simply enjoy it since I am constantly trying to guess the twist and outsmart the movie.
This review will be spoiler free if you are concerned about that, but if you have seen his earlier work and liked it then you should definitely see Split sooner rather than later.
Split centers around Kevin (McAvoy), a person with 23 distinct personalities. He kidnaps 3 girls and holds them prisoner in anticipation of a 24th personality. Meanwhile, the girls are trying to work with some of the personalities to escape.
I would give this movie 6 “personalities” out of 10.
There are two things that people will be talking about: James McAvoy’s acting and the ending (which will not be discussed in this blog). McAvoy seemlessly goes from one personality to another. Each character has their own traits, speech pattern, and nuances to make them clearly distinct. You can almost see the personalities conspiring against each other each time they have “the light”. His performances are easily the most captivating parts of the movie.
As a whole the movie was less than stellar, granted this could go back to me constanly trying to stay one step ahead of the movie. The drama and tension that should have been at the forefront, but fell to the wayside since there didn’t seem to be any impending danger. This was a big negative since Split relied on plot and acting to help keep the budget down, only the acting came through.
Unless you have seen the movie, you do not know how hard it is to talk about the movie without going into spoilers. There are a few good moments in the movie that make it worthwhile. As mentioned earlier, if you liked his earlier stuff then you should watch this one. I would recommend seeing this one in theatres, not for the spectacle but so you can enjoy it as part of a community.
I have two recommendations based on this movie.
1) My favorite Shyamalan movie has always been Unbreakable. It is a great variation of the superhero genre and even came out before that genre exploded. Bruce Willis gives one of his best performances and we get to see Samuel L. Jackson go to a level of crazy we normally don’t see.
2) My favorite “person/people get kidnapped by a crazy person” movie is probably 10 Cloverfield Lane. While the ending almost ruined the rest of the movie, John Goodman gave probably the performance of his life. That movie did tense VERY well since you had no idea what was going to happen.