Split

Ironically, I think it’s the film itself that suffers from DID (dissociative identity disorder, or “multiple personalities”). M. Night Shyamalan can’t decide if this is a strict horror film or if it’s more thriller, or character-driven. He jumps right into the plot with minimal fuss: three teenaged girls are abducted by a very methodical man who turned out to be only one personality among many. Captive, the girls try to figure out which of the personalities might be induced to help them, and which ones mean them harm.

The film works as well as it does because James McAvoy was the perfect casting choice (although he was 2nd choice, and only took the role when Joaquin Phoenix had some conflicts). In the hands of anyone else, the disorder might have seemed funny or splitshadow.jpgcartoonish, but McAvoy gives each personality a distinctive flavour without ever resorting to stereotypes. And that’s hard work period, never mind the fact that he’s fighting Shyamalan’s confused script, that seems to want to have something meaningful to say about this controversial disorder, but also really just wants to be an exploitative horror film. You can’t have it both ways.

Split is further testament that M. Night Shymalan has lost his way. He doesn’t know who he is as a film maker anymore, and his lack of confidence is evident in the script and on the screen. Having jumped head first into action, he then seems to regret his choice of not split-anya-taylor-joy-betty-buckley-jessica-sula.jpghaving introduced any of his characters. He bestows back stories on two of them through flashbacks, hoping it’s not too late. The rest remain paper thin. The girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula) are mostly there to scream on cue, and to wear progressively less clothing.

Is it a bad movie? No. No-ish. It’s not without merit. I was drawn in, and stressed out. I had all the right reactions. I just didn’t buy it 100%. You might be tempted, particularly by the film’s end, to say that it’s Shyamalan’s best work since Unbreakable. He’s certainly hoping you’ll say that, banking on it in fact. It’s not the highest compliment, of course, but I’m guessing he’ll take it.

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27 thoughts on “Split

  1. Wednesday's Child

    The trouble with exploitation horror for me is that the directors often seem to have an important issue to raise awareness of, so you can never be sure if they’re using the issue as an excuse to show women in progressively less clothing or vice versa. Either way, I think I can skip seeing this one in the theater if it causes stress. Am I right in assuming we already know the famous Shyamalan twist since we know the guy has DID, or is there another one?

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well, there’s a bit of a catch in the end, but it’s not his usual twist. It’s more a linking of the Shyamalan cinematic universe, which hasn’t officially existed until now.

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  2. indiefan20

    The trailer for this looked unintentionally hilarious; MPD is used far too much as a plot device considering what an extremely rare condition it actually is. When James McAvoy showed up in Norman Bates-esque drag and started talking in that stupid English accent, the preview lost me. The only thing funnier than Shymalan trying to use mental illness as a serious theme is the group that boycotted “Split” for being transphobic and making people with mental illness seem violent and dangerous. Does anybody take anything M. Night Shymalan makes seriously or expect him to represent the GLBTQ or mentally ill community? πŸ˜› Nice review, you went easier on this film than I probably would have.

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  3. Birgit

    I might see this because it sounds intriguing and I like James McAvoy but this is a Shymalan film and he’s been making dreck. I saw his last movie which sucked!

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  4. Liz A.

    Yeah…no. I saw the trailer, and all I could say is no. I just don’t like this sort of… this stuff. This ugly. I’m sensitive to this sort of violence. I do like Shyamalan though. Or, at least I used to.

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  5. Brittani

    I spoiled the “twist” for myself because I literally have no self control and I really don’t see how it works with the rest of the film. I’ll probably see it eventually out of curiosity, but thankfully you and everyone else in the wonderful blogging community have helped me set my expectations to zero. lol

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  6. J.

    Aside from Unbreakable, I’m not all that keen on Shyamalan’s movies. I think he tends to let a good idea get sucked into a black hole of plot holes (a black-plot-hole? I’ll likely give this a miss… or catch it if it’s really necessary, y’know?

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  7. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | Lambscores: Split, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, The Founder

  8. Jake

    I appreciate the honest review! I got into an argument with some co workers about this one- it’s just not that great! I was super excited to go see Split in theaters, and maybe I was just a victim of the intense advertising campaign, but film was super disappointing.

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