Split is the newest directorial effort from M. Night Shymalan, fresh off his pleasantly surprising success with The Visit. Split is about Kevin (James McAvoy), a man who has 23 different personalities living inside of his body. While being controlled by one of his personalities, he abducts three girls from a parking lot after a birthday party.
I had been hearing a lot of buzz about this movie going into seeing it this weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed The Visit, which was the first Shymalan movie I had watched since The Village, because that movie soured me on him that much. So, I was excited to see Split after hearing good things. After sitting in the theater for just about two hours, I came out feeling… mixed.
First, let me just say that I like Split. It is a well shot movie with a solid showing from Anya Taylor Joy and a standout performance from James McAvoy. That being said, I do have a couple issues with this movie that kept me from liking it as much as I was hoping I would.
There is a subplot involving flashbacks of Casey (Joy) in her childhood that help explain why she is the way she is right now. The flashbacks themselves are handled fairly well but in my opinion they don’t really lead anywhere satisfying. I won’t spoil anything here in this review, but I was just hoping for more of a payoff to those flashbacks.
The other thing I didn’t really care for is the first big reveal near the end of the movie. It didn’t really land for me, and even though the second reveal at the end of the movie helps to explain its plausibility, I still wasn’t the biggest fan of how it was done, especially when compared to some earlier exposition in the movie.
Now let’s talk about James McAvoy. He gives a hell of a performance in this movie. He only really gives us views of about eight or nine of the 23 personalities, which was a little disappointing, but he gives it his all with the ones he does get to do. Each personality is so distinct that it really does feel like he is playing completely different people. From nervous ticks to varying accents, McAvoy fully commits to this role and truthfully, he carries the movie on his shoulders. Without the quality of his performance, this movie wouldn’t be half as good as it is.
Of all the personalities represented in the film, I think Hedwig is my favorite. He is a nine-year-old boy who often interacts with the girls in the movie. He has some genuinely funny moments in the movie that had the theater I was in laughing out loud. Patricia was also very compelling, and I wish we had gotten a little more about her motivations for doing what she does in the movie.
Shymalan competently directs this movie, setting up shots that really build the suspense of the scene, which is a skill he had seemingly lost after Signs. I honestly believe that Split is a return to form for Shymalan. I personally prefer The Visit, but that might be because I had much lower expectations for that film.
A lot of people I have talked to have said that their overall opinion of Split changed with the final scene of the movie. I definitely enjoyed the final scene, but it didn’t really change my feelings for the film. It did make one of the earlier plot points a little easier to accept, but I don’t believe the entire film does or should hinge on it.
Overall, Split is a good film bolstered by a standout performance from its lead, and should show people that maybe we are past the point now where we should audibly sigh when we hear that Shymalan is directing a new movie. This is his second solid film in a row now and hopefully he continues on this arch going forward.