After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.
I was not very happy with M. Night Shyamalan for years. He wowed us all early on but then went through a phase in which, in my humble opinion, he teased us with concepts and stories that never panned out on screen. We were promised one thing in a trailer or teaser poster but then given something completely different. I started to forgive him after 2015’s The Visit. Now with the release of SPLIT I feel as if the Shyamalan I originally loved is finally back and bringing some swagger.
Shyamalan is an incredible story teller. His ability to conjure up unique scenarios or put a twist on classic ghost stories is unmatched. Even when a movie flopped at least you got an idea of what he was thinking about. In this one he simply asks the question, what if I person has split personalities and one of those believes itself to have supernatural powers. Then he parlays that question into a creepy thriller of abduction, inner conflict, and popcorn worthy entertainment.
Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) has split off into 23 unique and wildly different personalities. Each one with particular characteristics. Lately two of those personalities, Dennis and Patricia, have dominated the others. When Dennis kidnaps three young girls the inner conflict escalates. So much so that some of the other personalities reach out to Kevin’s therapist (Betty Buckley) for help. This creates a multi layered story which is just as much, if not more, about the human psyche and not just a run of the mill thriller.
McAvoy is outstanding in this role and expertly portrays each of Kevin’s personalities. He crosses gender and age lines seamlessly. This is so vital to the film’s success because if you don’t buy into the personalities you can’t be sold their motivations. M. Night wants the science of the human condition to be plausible. McAvoy makes that so. He is so creepy yet never crosses into campy or showmanship. He brings each personality to eerie existence and subtly makes them work in the fabric of society and the story.
Obviously Crumb needs a reason to be on screen and characters to interact with. The abduction of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), and Marcia (Jessica Sula) allow for this interaction. But to be honest they sort of become secondary to the overall intensity. You become so fascinated with the personalities of Kevin that you care little for their safety. Also M. Night once again tries to do too much. Of the three captured girls Casey is the one who engages the personalities as a way to get them all out safely. That is all well and good but there is an additional back story of Casey that is unnecessary and distracting. We don’t need or care about her past. Kevin is the focal point and everything else pales in comparison. So why add it? Only the Shyamalan knows.
SPLIT is a fun ride and as always M. Night adds in some humor to break the tension. It is not short of thrills but well balanced other places as well. It is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language. I would say a safe range though it 16 and up. There are some scary moments and dark themes that may confuse and haunt younger viewers. If your older high schoolers want to head out as a group I think this would be a good choice. I give it 4 out of 5 dance moves. Keeping in mind it is for the genre and the unique story. Plus it is refreshing to see Shyamalan back to what he does so great.