2014 saw the welcome return to form from director M. Night Shyamalan with horror thriller ‘The Visit’. Was this set to be a one off though? Whilst it was enjoyable and the screenplay was quite clever it never quite stood up to the quality of his earlier films. Could his latest movie, ‘Split’ get closer to the likes of ‘The Sixth Sense’ & ‘Signs’?
The idea of a character with split personalities has definitely been addressed before in films, some of my favourites feature similar themes. However, I can’t say I have ever seen anything quite like this, a character with twenty three distinct personalities and a twenty fourth on the way. The casting for such a character, Kevin, would be crucial to the success of this film and although James McAvoy wouldn’t have been my first choice after seeing the film I wouldn’t have anyone else play him. McAvoy is spectacular here, for me it’s easily my favourite of his work to date and it has got to be a contender for his career best performance. He made each of Kevin’s different personalities feel like their very own character, audiences won’t see McAvoy playing these personalities but they will see very distinct characters making the film feel like it has a much bigger cast than it really does. McAvoy is nothing short of fantastic here and his performance alongside the writing made the element of split personalities so so interesting. The film features a few other cast members such as Anya Taylor-Joy & Betty Buckley who perform well but ‘Split’ belongs to James McAvoy. One minute you can’t take your eyes of him as he brings an awkward humour to the film and at others times you can barely look at the leading man thanks to the horror he also creates.
As I’ve already touched on I found the narrative to be written with such intrigue, allowing the viewer to really delve into the insane world that Kevin lives in. The whole story was wonderfully mysterious and consistently unnerving resulting in a completely gripping experience. There was such a sense of terror present throughout that this film definitely earns it right to be called a horror film. There are certainly several very dark themes included in the film and it is the treatment of these themes that unfortunately does throw up some issues. One scene in particular just goes too far, where a simple indication would have been enough the film shows just a bit too much which was a shame. The only other issue I have with the film was the two separate narratives that run alongside each other. We are shown a younger version of one of Kevin’s captives and moments from her childhood as well as the main abduction storyline, I can see why this is included but I think there could have been ways round this as at first I just wanted to focus my attention on the main plot. Thankfully the strength of the rest of the film makes up for these flaws. Shyamalan certainly knows how to create suspense, in one moment through using different character drama and skillful editing he shows us a masterclass in this, only one example of the brilliant suspense on offer throughout. Combined with the chilling score there will be times you have to look away. Towards the end of the film there was a danger of the story running away with itself but much to my surprise Shyamalan keeps the narrative reigned in just the right amount setting clever limits to the picture.
It’s been a long time since a film got me so excited, ‘Split’ is a real treat for fans of cinema. One part abduction horror, one part psychological thriller and wholly the best kind of Shyamalan film ‘Split’ is a expertly mixed combination of genres. McAvoy’s superb powerhouse of a performance is equally as entertaining as it is terrifying and the film continues to build until it reaches its mind blowing finale. Films like ‘Split’ remind my why I love the cinema so much.
Rating – 9/10
Question: What is your favourite M. Night Shyamalan movie?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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