RELEASED: January 20th 2017
DIRECTED BY: M. Night Shyamalan
WRITTEN BY: M. Night Shyamalan
PRODUCED BY: M. Night Shyamalan, Marc Bienstock & Jason Blum
MUSIC BY: West Dylan Thordson
STARRING: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus & Bruce Willis
I’ve never particularly been a fan of this series. Prior to Glass‘ release, Unbreakable and Split were amongst the only three M. Night Shyamalan film’s I’d seen (the third being The Village) and none of these films had left a lasting or favourable impression on me.
However, with Glass now in cinemas, I decided to go back and explore the prior films, starting with Split (because I seem to have lost my copy of Unbreakable and Split is on Netflix).
Split sees three young girls abducted by a man named Kevin Wendell Crumb. Crumb has dissociative identity disorder, and some of his split personalities have united to kidnap these girls as a tribute to an oncoming twenty-fourth personality, who is known only as ‘The Beast’.
The main reasons I was initially sceptical of this film after my first viewing is the writing and central premise. Kevin has dissociative identity disorder. Fine. But the film makes grand claims about how Kevin is unlike anyone else; with a whopping twenty-three personalities living in his body, and, as previously mentioned, a twenty-fourth on its way. Out of those twenty-four personalities, we see a grand total of… eight. Which, considering the role requires star James McAvoy to alter his stance, accent and mannerisms as he fluidly swaps between personalities, is still very impressive. But it also means there are a whole sixteen personalities we’re not seeing. So why even mention them? Why not say ‘Kevin has seven personalities, but the eighth one, ‘the Beast’, will be the most dangerous of all’! It would still work just fine.
Furthermore, despite being someone who loves science-fiction and superheroes, I just couldn’t buy into the fact that having dissociative identity disorder would allow someone to basically will one of their personalities to have superpowers. Of course, this is all meant to be explained away by the fact that the ‘big Shyamalan twist’ is that it, as everyone now knows, exists in the same world as Unbreakable, and thus, somewhat lame superpowers exist. But as it’s own film (as that twist doesn’t come until after the closing title card), it really strains your suspension of disbelief.
(It’s also a bit of a let-down, because not only do they describe ‘the Beast’ as dangerous, but they also claim that he has quite a stark physical transformation, which, in the end, he does not. Not really).
However, despite all of that, this film is worth watching just for James McAvoy alone. He gives an absolutely amazing performance, really capturing the essence of Kevin’s multiple identities; giving them all their own unique personalities, with subtle variations in their facial expressions, the way they talk, act. His time playing ‘Patricia’ is particularly indicative of this, and is perhaps my favourite. It’s just such complex and fascinating performance, and while his co-stars do an adequate job (Anna Taylor-Joy is particularly good, but that may be because she’s the only other character here with any substance) it’s safe to say that without McAvoy, this film would have been forgotten about almost instantly.
To be fair to the production, the music is also quite good. It’s eerie and foreboding, really hammering down that ‘psychological horror’ feel that the movie is going for, even if the actual horror aspect of the film is rather trite for the majority of its runtime. Similarly, costuming isn’t a department I usually think of when watching a movie (probably due to the fact that the majority of superhero films do a fantastic job, and it would get quite repetitive) but here I can’t help but applaud the work they’ve put into this film, along with the designers, making detail-filled spaces and clothing that perfectly complement McAvoy’s performance.
All-in-all, despite my previous opinion on it, Split is a good film. It’s just a bit of a stupid one. I give it: