STARRING: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus and Neal Huff
Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities, and must try and escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.
Split has us following three teenage girls (Claire, Marcia and Casey) who end up being abducted by Dennis, one of the 23 split personalities inhabiting the body of Kevin Wendell Crumb who suffers from severe dissociative identity disorder. As Dr. Karen Fletcher, Kevin’s psychiatrist, becomes concerned by his recent behaviour as Kevin’s two personalities Dennis and Patricia believe that the 24th identity will soon be unleashed.
Fifteen years. It’s been fifteen years since I can honestly say is the last time I actually enjoyed an M. Night Shyamalan film. His twelfth feature film focuses on the twenty-three personalities that exist within the body of Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering severe dissociative identity disorder. One of the personalities kidnaps three teenage girls and they seem to serve a great purpose as the 24th personality may soon come into the light.
As a concept, Split is a very intriguing one as it feels more bottled/self-contained from Shyamalan’s bigger budget exploits and what helps heighten his direction is Mike Gioulakis’s cinematography who captures the beauty of the claustrophobic environment. In terms of performances Anya Taylor-Joy is very good as Casey, the most developed character of the teenagers abducted. As she behaves more calmly than the other two, we get flashbacks as to why she seems to know more than she’s letting on with the predicament she finds herself in and her mental battle with Kevin’s personalities is engaging to watch. As good as Taylor-Joy is, the film is essentially James McAvoy’s and boy does he do a great job here playing multiple personalities and creating their own unique ticks, traits and accents. He captivates every minute he appears on screen and reminds us why he is one of the best working actors today.
While I liked the film, there’s some things I didn’t like. Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire and Jessica Sula’s Marcia are playing very one-dimensional characters that the audience is giving nothing to connect with or even feel sympathy for in comparison to Taylor-Joy’s character arc. We know Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder, the angle of certain people overcoming their disabilities by moving to different personalities and Kevin=some bad personalities can rub some people in the audience the wrong way in how it depicts DID. In the final act the film takes a turn that even I thought was an unbelievable stretch until the final scene appears in the film to have it all make sense in terms of that and accepting how DID is depicted in the film.
A fine confined slow burn thriller in which James McAvoy chews up the scenery playing multiple characters and Anya Taylor-Joy gives a performance that has us rooting for Casey to make it out alive. Very well directed by Shyamalan and lovely cinematography from Gioulakis, it’s a decent film that just never excelled to good/great. The final scene however is great and I haven’t been so surprised by a films ending in a long time. 6/10