M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been in the gutter for a long time. Ever since The Sixth Sense blew people’s minds back in 1999, everybody got pumped to see another film from him. The reason being is to be engaged in what Shyamalan has written up his sleeve as well as to figuring out about the twist. His next film, Unbreakable, changed the way how superhero movies are portrayed; it was told in a more realistic way. Even though I liked both Signs and The Village, they didn’t quite hold up its majesty of his predecessors.
After Lady in the Water and The Happening, Shyamalan has taken a turn for the worse. Everyone started to hate him, especially with what he did with The Last Airbender (which I avoided like the plague) and After Earth (one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had). Then, he has made his comeback with The Visit! While the tone can be quite inconsistent at times, Shyamalan still provided just the right amount of thrills and laughs. Split is one of those rare January movies that is actually pretty damn good.
Kevin (James McAvoy) is a man with dissociative identity disorder. He goes out of his way to kidnap three girls—Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula)—to a faraway bunker. They begin to discover some of his 23 different identities including 9-year-old Hedwig, a proper English woman named Patricia, an obsessive-compulsive janitor named Dennis, among others. They try everything they can to escape. Meanwhile, he makes frequent visits with his psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (a wonderful Betty Buckley), stating that a 24th personality, known as “The Beast”, is about to emerge.
At 1 hour and 57 minutes, Split is Shyamalan’s longest-running film. The audience gets the sense of claustrophobia when they see the girls trapped in the bunker and fighting to escape. And Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography has that feeling of It Follows (the last film he shot). At one moment, you begin to laugh at some of Kevin’s shenanigans—notably in one scene, as Hedwig, he is dancing to Kanye West in front of Casey—and you begin to feel uneasy of what is about to happen. With his subtle camerawork of his earlier films, Shyamalan uses more of the “show don’t tell” approach. As the movie progresses, the audience learns more about him and his disorder, and how he takes control of his body. Dr. Fletcher begins to learn more about his disorder. “An individual with multiple personalities can change their body chemistry with their thoughts,” she says. McAvoy’s terrifyingly brilliant performance is more than enough to carry through.
After her breakthrough role in The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy gives another wonderful performance. The audience begins to know about where she is coming from through a series of disturbing flashbacks.
Split is a movie for the mind and for the soul. It serves as a reminder that M. Night Shyamalan can make something truly exceptional through smart writing, excellent camerawork, and an eerie atmosphere. Fans of Shyamalan’s earlier work are in for a treat!