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**SPOILER FREE REVIEW**
Split is directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and it stars James McAvoy, Anna Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley.
Like I said at the beginning, this is a 100% spoiler free review. I’m not even going to hint at anything, even though I’m dying to because this is a damn good film!
You’re safe with me. That I can reassure! Let’s talk about Split.
Shyamalan came into the public eye after the success of The Sixth Sense. Since then it has been hit and miss with him, two of the biggest flops that spring to mind are The Last Airbender and The Happening (the film that my friend David Thomas Robinson described as “the trees are killing everyone”.). He has since returned to his roots to create a psychological thriller starring James McAvoy as a man caught in the middle of dissociative identity disorder. He has 23 different personalities living inside of his head and one of them has kidnapped three girls. He is holding them captive for an undisclosed reason, and the film cuts back from these girls trying to plan an escape and James McAvoy visiting Betty Buckley, who is playing his psychologist.
As I mention before, M. Night Shyamalan has had mixed success since The Sixth Sense. I’m pleased to announce that he has returned to winning ways with Split. This is his best film since signs, and it is a very, very good psychological thriller.
The three main performances are James McAvoy, Anna Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley. Let’s talk about Betty Buckley first as this psychologist. She plays a woman desperately trying to communicate with Kevin (McAvoy’s character) and all of his various personalities. It almost becomes a game of trying to work out which personality she is speaking with. She’s trying to work out how he works, trying to dissect the brain of someone with DID, trying to work out how to help him and how to cure him. I loved her character in this film. She really shines in this movie and really brings a lot to this film.
Anna Taylor-Joy once again is very good in this film, this is another good turn for her. She’s living up to her reputation as one of the most exciting talents of her generation. There’s a lot of layers to her characters, a lot to discover. Of course it sounds as if I’m heading towards spoiler territory, so I’ll just stop right there.
I’m of the opinion that James McAvoy is one of the most underrated actors in film today. I enjoyed him as Professor X in the X-Men movies, he was charming in Starter for Ten, and how can I have a James McAvoy discussion and not bring up Filth. Without a doubt the best film/ role he was been in. A future film review, perhaps? He’s just so perfect at playing damaged characters. Here, McAvoy is insanely courageous in this movie. He gives 1000000000% to the role. He gives off the impression that he’s fully at war with himself – face and mind. He’s fully committed to the role and it pays off. One scene, in particular, reminds me so much of the T-1000’s death in Terminator 2. No GCI, sure pure acting from McAvoy. Each personality is different to the next. Each of them has distinctive mannerisms, accents, etc. I still rate Bruce Robertson (from Filth) as his best role, but this is a very close second. He was brilliant in the role. What you’ve seen in the trailers is not even close to the finished article. He deserves to win awards for it.
Camera work was top league. It made you feel claustrophobic at times, the lighting is superb and really adds to that duchy effect. This is a solid looking film. The music score added to the bigger picture. It was very subtle. Refreshingly so, in fact. Sometimes you won’t even notice it creeping into the scene, slowly building up in an intense aura of dread. It really worked.
There is humour added in the film. It’s the right balance of it. Shyamalan wisely pokes fun at some of the more indistinct elements of McAvoy’s various personalities. The one personality that provided the most laughs was Hedwig, the 9-year-old living in McAvoy’s head. You find yourself laughing at how cute this 9-year-old version of James McAvoy is, all of a sudden, you find yourself terrified of him.
I do have some flaws with Split, that being the two other girls that were kidnapped by “Dennis” (another of McAvoy’s personalities). Both of whom seem too forced and other the top at times. It wasn’t off-putting by any means. There’s also a Skype session involving Betty Buckley which could have easily been reduced in length.
I’m not going to talk about how the film ends, no spoilers remember. I was initially confused by it. looking further into it, it made sense.
The first act of Split was the weakest, but it progressed as the film developed on and build towards a very intense finale that had me on the edge of my seat.
Split is well worth your time. I highly endorse it.
Great start to 2017.
Rating: **** ½ (Champion)