Review: Split

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. On the one hand it feels as though, following the commercial success of his last film, The Visit (an [atrocious] eleventh hour attempt to ride in on found-footage horror’s coattails), Shyamalan feels emboldened. He comes at his audience with this film under the assumption that all is forgiven. And maybe it is. Should we hold the torrents of shit he has flung at us against him? Who has the time? Regardless, there’s a lot of confidence here. And ego. It’s as though, in his own mind, the director has erased the past ten years and is of the belief that the cinema-going audiences fricking love him again. So everything is Shyamalan’d up the yin-yang. Plot pieces are relinquished like breadcrumbs for us to dutifully follow. You can practically hear him gleefully tittering in the back of the room. It’s irritating.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Regardless of what you make of the director’s back catalogue, he does know how to assemble a movie. This little thriller is sleek and pacy, even if it struggles to excuse its full two-hour running time. All of the expected boxes are ticked; it’s nicely lit, has a consistent visual style (close-ups, cluttered frames). It’s technically as proficient as anything that carries his name. He made waves in 1999 for a reason. The Sixth Sense wasn’t just a good twist, it was a well made whole. He has the ability, and a good portion of that ability is evidenced here.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. McAvoy, an actor who is easy to detest, puts in more effort here than I’ve seen from anyone in a long time. But effort doesn’t always equal greatness. If there’s an award for team player, give him that. But really, these multiple personalities are all pantomime-thin caricatures and, if presented separately, would likely be accused of all manner of tacky generalisations. Damn if he doesn’t give it his all, though.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. McAvoy is summarily trounced by the quiet, piercing doe-eyed gaze of Anya Taylor-Joy who, between this and The Witch, is comfortably putting together evidence of her ability to outshine her elders. Watch this space for more of this young talent. She is going places.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. The same can’t really be said for anyone else, but then look at what they’re working with. The other abducted girls, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sulu), barely have a character between them, but then Shyamalan’s narrative is just as disinterested in them as we’re evidently supposed to be. Betty Buckley puts in some thankless time as the exposition-dumping Dr Fletcher but really, for a film built on the value and import of character and identity, there are a few too many ciphers present.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Here’s the thing though. Shouldn’t we be thankful for films like this? In an age in which thinkpiece after thinkpiece bemoans the lack of original thought in mainstream cinema, populist releases that aren’t beholden to some franchise or other ought to be greeted with warmth and an open mind. For better or worse, Shyamalan has a track record of bringing us such films.

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Split might not actually qualify as an original and independent creation. That final shot. Man, he just can’t help himself, can he?

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. But it’s fun!

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Is it fun? Or is it eye-rollingly indulgent? And while we’re at it, doesn’t this just sit beside last year’s Lights Out as yet another film to literally demonise mental health issues? 

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Or, does it celebrate and champion the odd and the unique, the individual rather than the identical? Isn’t Split ultimately saying that we thrive when we are allowed to express our true natures?

I have a few conflicting feelings about Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. That last shot though. FFS.

Score:  2-5

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: