Split (2017) Review

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Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, horror and content that may disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke
Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher
Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit
Jessica Sula as Marcia
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Ana Taylor Joy), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him – as well as everyone around him – as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

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Split was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. M. Night Shyamalan has been starting to make a comeback with The Visit and from the trailers, Split looked like it has a lot of potential. James McAvoy particularly looks like he was going to give a tremendous performance. Having seen Split, I can say that M. Night Shyamalan is officially back. This film was so great, with great acting, excellent direction and a mostly riveting story. Although it’s not quite the level of greatness of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, Split comes very close. It has some issues but the pros absolutely outweigh the cons.

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I will say that the first act of this movie is a little weak. It just didn’t really have me riveted all the time, the dialogue felt a little awkward at times and it was just okay overall, though McAvoy kept me interested enough. By the second act however, I was incredibly invested in what is going on. Shyamalan keeps everything riveting. Shyamalan in his films often makes the mistake of just having character spurt exposition, telling the audience information. Save for one scene with Betty Buckley in a Skype conversation, Shyamalan handles the information distribution a lot better, giving little tidbits of info, trusting the audience to follow along. This movie has a surprising amount of comedy, most of the time it works. A lot of it is about how odd and strange the situations are, which I like, Shyamalan knows that a lot of the film can be a little weird and he has fun with it. One other thing to note is that Anya Taylor Joy’s character does have some flashbacks to her past. While I understand the importance of them, I felt like they could’ve been done a little better. They felt mostly out of place and the choice of flashbacks could’ve been better. Now this film mostly is realistic but at a point it goes in a ‘different direction’. You really have to just go along with this direction, even if it feels jarring. The ending for me made this direction make sense. This ending of the movie is going to divide some people. I personally think it’s amazing. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Shyamalan’s earlier work, your mind will be blown. However it’s understandable that many people don’t understand the meaning of the ending. If you watch Split and don’t get understand it, just look it up.

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This is the best performance I’ve ever seen James McAvoy give. He had to portray 9 (of the 23) personalities, all with unique quirks, mannerisms and aspects to them. Not only that but he had to make it all feel real, not just cartoony and crazy. Sometimes during one shot he’d change from one to the other and you can really tell when this happens, all the personalities are very distinct. This couldn’t have been easy to pull off. There’s particularly one scene in the third act which really shows how fantastic of an actor he is. Definitely one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. Anya Taylor Joy was also incredible as the main girl Casey. As previously stated, her character has a backstory, a pretty unfortunate backstory to say the least. Without revealing anything, Anya was very convincing as her and it was easy to follow her character. Betty Buckley plays Kevin’s psychiatrist and she was also great, especially in her scenes with McAvoy. If there’s any weak parts in terms of acting, it’s the other kidnapped girls. They weren’t horrendous but they are like typical horror movie girls, there wasn’t anything really to them.

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The cinematography is fantastic but that’s not surprising, since Shyamalan brought on the Cinematographer of It Follows. So naturally it looks great. The music by West Dylan Thordson was also really effective. Shyamalan really knows how to make situations creepy and unsettling, despite some issues in the story, I can’t really say at any point in the movie the direction faltered because it doesn’t really. This film has many legitimately scary moments, and went further than I thought it would.

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Now as I said this movie does have some problems with regards to its story really in the first act. However, all the positives of the film are so great that I almost forget about these issues. Everything from the acting, direction and most of the story made this such a surprising and great movie. And let’s just say that after the ending, I’m hyped for M. Night Shyamalan’s next project. However this movie is not really for everyone, just a heads up.

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