The last thirteen years have not been kind to M. Night Shyamalan’s career. After several failed films, it looks like the once “master of suspense” has finally found his way back to making quality films with Split, the most ambitious and downright thrilling film of Shyamalan’s since Signs. Described as a psychological horror film, which is both written and directed by Shyamalan himself, the film stars James McAvoy as a man living with twenty three unique personalities and a moment of impulse that will unearth a side of himself not yet experienced.
Kevin (James McAvoy) has made a life changing decision, one that he will never come back from. Kevin has kidnapped young friends, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), and their troubled friend Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), and is now holding them captive in a windowless room somewhere underground. Frightened and unsure of why they’re in this predicament, the three young girls soon find out that their captive is more than he appears. Having first been introduced to Dennis, the forceful leader of Kevin’s personalities, more emerge to suit the situation. Patricia, the elder statesmen and the calming voice and Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy looking for a friend, arrive to meet the young ladies and help them understand why they have been chosen. Casey, the more road weary of the three girls, pitches an idea that they must try and convince one of the personalities to betray the others and free the girls before it’s too late, but a twenty fourth personality begins to emerge as “The Beast” is growing and threatens to consume all that Kevin is.
The performance of James McAvoy is truly spellbinding. His commitment to the multiple roles inside Kevin are portrayed in widely unique ways, with each personality granted its own separate thought process. It’s McAvoy‘s finest role since Filth. Betty Buckley portrays the calming and mothering figure of Dr. Karen Fletcher. Her involvement in the film adds a unique substance and understanding the to workings of Kevin and creates doubt in the audience’s thinking about the man. Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula embody the spirit necessary to create the fear and confusion of being captive and compliment the emergence of Anya Taylor-Joy‘s Casey as the strength of the group. Casey’s backstory is a powerful twist that parallel’s the situation at hand and Joy’s portrayal the perfect vessel to tell it.
Overall, Split is a great psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. The shocking ending will have fans of Shyamalan‘s earlier films gasping in disbelief. A true return to form for the proud director.
3 1/2 out of 5