The reveal at the end had me gasp, and I walked out of the theater with a huge smile on my face.
Split, starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Split tells the story of one man, Kevin played by McAvoy, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder and with the disorder has twenty-three identities living within himself. A few of the identities decide to abduct three girls and the reason why is slowly revealed throughout the course of the movie. Split is a suspenseful abduction thriller and well made, but it’s not until the very end of the film that the entire movie falls into place. This truly heightens the experience of the story overall.
The standouts in the film are James McAvoy, playing numerous roles, and Anya Taylor-Joy playing one of the abducted girls, Casey. McAvoy sinks into the role and each identity seen on the screen is unique. Though Kevin is supposed to have twenty-three personalities only four are truly displayed with any prominence in the movie. However, each one is truly different and the ease of which McAvoy conveys their differences showcases how talented of an actor he is. The most interesting identity he portrays is the young persona of Hedwig who is a nine-year-old boy. Hedwig is at the same time creepy but also innocent. This personality also brings some much needed levity to the movie, and had me laughing. All of the Kevin’s personalities that are displayed in the movie are creepy. They are the ones which have taken over to abduct the girls and are awaiting the arrival of a new identity they name the beast.
Dennis is the main personality which acted on abducting the girls. He planned to abduct two, and Taylor-Joy’s character Casey just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and get taken as well. She is the character the audience will relate to most and root for to escape the situation. Joy does a great job in the role and with her performance in this and last years The Witch she is very much a rising star to keep an eye on. She portrays Casey’s terror well, and you believe she is frightened. The other two girls in the film are good as well, but don’t really stand out. The other performance which was well done is by Betty Buckley who plays Kevin’s therapist. She has the job of basically explaining to the audience what DID is and what patients with the disease can do. I didn’t think her exposition was too heavy, and with the ending I think it was balanced well for the film overall. Buckley’s character does a good job of trying to parse together exactly what is happening to Kevin, and only makes one unrealistic decision in the film.
This is another big positive for the movie. The characters don’t make silly decisions in the course of the film. The therapist does something towards the end which is a tad convenient for the story to work, but it’s not necessarily far-fetched. The girls in the film never make the standard dumb horror film decisions. They are terrified, but their actions are ones which are based and grounded in reality. There wasn’t one time in the film which had me wondering why they were taking a certain course of action. There was one instance in the movie where one girl is attempting something which’s chances of succeeding are slim, but when there are no other options she had little choice but to try. The poor choices characters make in horror films are what genially take me out of this genre of films, so it was great not see it in Split.
The only slight negative for the film is its length. It is a tad too long, and probably could have been shortened by about five or ten minutes. A few of the scenes with the therapist and Kevin were a bit redundant and could have been shortened or cut out. Shyamalan also placed himself in the film, and while it wasn’t a major role, when he came on screen it did take me out of the movie. He probably could have found someone else for the small role, or cut it out altogether. These are the only minor slights to the film which is exceptionally shot and riveting to watch. Shyamalan tells the story in a visually fascinating way and draws the audience into the movie. As the tension starts to ramp up you feel in the moment with Casey and the other characters.
Split is a very good film, with an ending which puts it over the top. Shyamalan is known for his twist endings, but the ending in this film isn’t a twist. The story you watch is what you get, but something is revealed at the end of movie which should have fans of his early work giddy for the implications of what is next. This reveal makes major sense on multiple levels, and I can’t wait to see what news drops after the film has been out for a while. I’m not sure how many people in my theater understood the reveal, because I was the only one who audibly gasped when it happened. I almost clapped, but stopped myself because it seemed I was the only one reacting. Needless to say I loved the reveal, and really enjoyed this movie. If you enjoyed Shyamalan’s early movies, namely Sixth Sense and Unbreakable then this is a must watch. If you are just a fan of good suspenseful horror this one is very much worth seeing.