“He’s done awful things to people, and he’ll do awful things to you.”
Night Shyamalan has done it again, and finally in a good way. I have always been a fan of his work, even through the rough patches. Horror-comedy is a thing, and he excels in it usually. His last film, The Visit, was a perfect example of this. It had been years since M. Night had released a film that the general consensus loved, personally I loved The Visit, but not everyone did. Many were beginning to think he was in a rut that he couldn’t get out of. Thank God he proved us all wrong.
When the trailer for Split was first released, I knew it was an M. Night film. It had the feel, it was weird and different, and I had a feeling I was going to be pleasantly surprised. The premise for the movie is a man with twenty-three identities kidnapping three girls. Seems simple enough. The great thing about a film by Shyamalan is that they are never simple, never typical, and always a fun ride.
The movie opens with a birthday party where friends Claire and Marcia, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula respectively, are discussing why they shouldn’t have invited Casey, Anya Taylor-Joy, to the birthday party with Claire’s dad. Casey stands at a window alone trying to get a ride, but it turns out the car broke down. The four make their way to the car so Claire’s dad can take them all home. While loading everything into the trunk, a man approaches Claire’s dad and then the strange man gets into the vehicle with the girls. When the girls try to tell them he has the wrong car, he drugs them and they wake up in a strange room.
Here, we meet Dennis, one of the many personalities of James McAvoy’s character Kevin Wendell Crumb. At this point, all we know about Dennis is that he is OCD, as you can tell by his actions. We soon meet Patricia, and then after Hedwig. They all tell the girls that “he” is coming to see them, and that they will not be hurt until then. While the three separate personalities have the girls locked away, his other identities are emailing his therapist, Betty Buckley, for meetings. She almost always speaks with Barry, but senses something is different with him. She knows that Kevin/Barry have mentioned other personalities to her before, and she knows that some of them are ‘bad’ versions of Kevin himself. The girls try to figure out ways to get out and get away from Kevin, but they will see that Kevin is smart and most of their attempts will fail. You learn in a series of flashbacks for about Casey and her childhood, and you learn a little bit more about why she is the way that she is.
The film brings an uneasiness to the theater, and shows you that you really never know you’re coming into contact with on a daily basis. There is a strong science base to a portion of this film. Each of Kevin’s personalities will make you feel something, nearing the end of the movie you will get to see a glimpse of most of them. You might even feel bad for Kevin. You will love Casey, and you will be rooting for her, Claire, and Marcia.
With any Shyamalan film, you can almost guarantee that their will be some sort of twist ending. This one is no different. There are not only one, but two twists in the final moments of this film. If you aren’t an avid fan of Shyamalan’s films, the last twist might blow right past you, however, if you’ve been watching his films since the beginning of his time, the last twist will quite literally blow your socks off. But it’s a blink and you miss it kind of thing. I actually didn’t realize what had happened until the next day, and then I had to call everyone that had seen it already to tell them.
I was very excited to see this movie because I have a growing appreciation for Anya Taylor-Joy. Not only is she an exquisite actress–did any of you watch The Witch? If not you need to see her in it, she makes the whole entire movie better–but she is also someone that I think I could be best friends with. I love to read her interviews and I am always excited to see what project she will be doing next. She delivers in this film. She does exactly what is needed of her character and more. If she’s been under your radar, she won’t be after this movie. She’s someone we all need to watch out for in the future. James McAvoy goes above and beyond what is expected of him in this movie. He is almost unrecognizable in the role. He embodies a man with split personalities so wonderfully. You feel that each version of Kevin that he is playing is a different person, and he gives each character an individual personality and characteristics. Richardson and Sula also give a peak performance, Richardson being another young actress we should all be watching. And Betty Buckley brings a warm, tender compassion to her character.
If you don’t like films like Shyamalan produces, you might not have the level of respect for this film as I did. I can’t say that you shouldn’t try it, because I think overall it is a wonderful film. And if you do love his work, please pay attention to the very end scene. There is SUCH an importance to it.
Rating: 7 out of 10