I like this M. Night. So this is about a man who has 23 different personalities (James McAvoy). One of his personalities decides that it would be a good idea to kidnap three teenage girls. They will have to use their wits if they want to escape before he brings to light a 24th personality. M. Night Shyamalan is a director that has been through a lot, at least from a critical standpoint. His career started with a fire, but it was a flame that burned brightly, and he was unable to maintain that high rate of success. After a number of big budget belly flops like After Earth and the Last Airbender, they took away the large paychecks and made him work with less, and he succeeded for the most part with The Visit. He really seems to be taking full advantage of these smaller budget films, because he has done it again with Split.
It also doesn’t hurt that he got an inspired performance out of James McAvoy.
Now the whole sell point behind is that you get to see this man who has all of these different personalities. As you can probably imagine, not all 23 get an equal amount of screen time, and really only 4 – 6 get heavily showcased in the script, but you see just enough from the others to give you the full scope. It is a big name director in M. Night, but let’s be clear here: if this movie didn’t have James McAvoy, it wouldn’t work. You’ve got him cross-dressing, doing different accents, and essentially putting together an acting reel, showing off the range of different characters that he can play. In addition to the performance, this is a well shot film. There are plenty of extreme close-ups on characters, and there isn’t a lot of space in this lair that they’re in, so it adds to the claustrophobic effect.
You’re also never exactly sure where this story is going.
All of the turns in the storytelling are intriguing and engaging, and I was in this movie from start to finish. It is an M. Night film, so you know there’s going to be a twist, and I did spend a good amount of time trying to figure out what it was going to be. I can’t say that I saw it coming, and I wish I could say more about it, as I do not want to be that guy who spoils M. Night movies. I will say this, though: I personally understood what it was, but it could very well just be completely lost on a large portion of the audience who just came to see a horror flick, which is kind of a presumptuous move to make as a director. Still, it plays such a small part in what is otherwise a satisfyingly tense thriller.
Split (2017) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire