Multiple personalities and quite a few plot twists
Fifty (well, twenty three) shades of Kevin as James McAvoy plays multiple different personalities in Split, the latest creepy offering from M Night Shyamalan.Few filmmakers can master suspense quite like M Night Shyamalan. No one can touch him when it comes to plot twists. After he rocketed to fame with a classic like The Sixth Sense, it has seemed as though Shyamalan would struggle to recapture that form again. With Split, he’s created an intensely entertaining and troubling film that’s weird and wonderful and horrifying and 100% Shyamalan.The central conceit of the film is revealed in the film’s trailers – James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man with multiple personalities. The way McAvoy acts though, it’s more like twenty three separate characters, each with distinct identities, wardrobes, ticks, accents and demeanours. There are a few costumes and props, but mostly it’s just pure acting chops from McAvoy, who’s incredible in the role(s).
Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) accepts a lift home from a stranger – don’t do that, kids – and soon finds herself abducted and held captive by Kevin, along with two other young girls Claire and Marcia (Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson). Casey soon emerges as our hero, and it’s she who tries to connect with Kevin and his various personalities as she realises that’s her best chance of escape. Taylor-Joy is excellent, and follows on from her fantastic turn in The Witch with some more wide-eyed terror here.
Kevin’s lair is fairly standard movie-kidnapper stuff: it’s dark, underground, wet, dirty and absolutely chock full of foreboding. While the bulk of the action takes place down here, there are frequent flashbacks to Casey’s life pre-abduction with some crucial clues to her psyche, and some really great scenes between McAvoy and Betty Buckley, who plays Kevin’s therapist Dr Fletcher. There are a lot of nods to classic cinema (chatting to the shrink in their office is standard Hollywood stuff, while the cross-dressing portion of Kevin’s dissociative personality disorder is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho).
But you don’t have to be a die-hard Shyama-fan (I 100% just made that term up) to enjoy Split
In true Shyamalan form, there are plot twists and turns, and there’s a big twist at the end that will please the filmmaker’s fans no end. But you don’t have to be a die-hard Shyama-fan (I 100% just made that term up) to enjoy Split. It’s really dark, and made enjoyably creepy by Michael Gioulakis’s cinematography. It’s also weirdly fun, and you can really lose yourself in McAvoy’s multiple excellent performances, while also being thoroughly creeped out at the same time. There are some ridiculous bits and there are plot-holes that Shyamalan has pretty much just ignored or tried to hide with black humour and jumpy moments (a bit like what he tried in The Visit, only much better). But it’s a film with a good concept buoyed by excellent performances, particularly from McAvoy and Taylor-Joy.
Split is an entertaining watch, and definitely signals a return to form for Shyamalan. Come to find out what the big twist is, stay for the inventive, funny and chilling psycho-drama.
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