Split (aka Untitled M. Night Shyamalan Project) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
James McAvoy stars in a Shamalamadingdong (M. Night Shyamalan) film about mental disorders - moreover dissociative identity disorder that I can’t happen but get familiar vibes off of it by mere seconds into the flick. Oh that’s right: Identity is the feature I was reminiscing about, a film by James Mangold that did the same premise in a more subtle way as opposed to Shyamalan’s Split. That isn’t to say Split is worse than Identity, but the two are so intertwined that one cannot help but feel as if they both serve as interchangeable sequels to one another.
So, Split is kind of unique?
Meet James McAvoy’s 24 personalities that can change on a whim – he doesn’t know how to tame them or keep them under control; some of them are friendly, others not so much. In a performance worthy of admiration, if not several major film awards, McAvoy steals the show (which is all about him nonetheless) by kidnapping several teen girls and locking them into a self-built dungeon. His craftsmanship extends well beyond mere corridors and pipelines however, at least until he realizes the major mistake to never put human-sized ventilation shafts above a given prison in which kidnap victims are to be held. Still, and I can nonchalantly use this here, in a Shyamalan twist that I personally did not expect to see here, we find out that Split is part of something way bigger than previously imagined.
Mr. Shyamalan shows that he knows his craft well. The camera moves meticulously in and around the room and one can almost sense that Mr. Night doesn’t waste any shots. His features, ranging from best (Unbreakable) to worst (the Happening) have always had their fair share of mystery and suspense going on behind the curtain. Split is not an exemption and follows a formula well, whilst also adding few exceptions to the Shyamalan rule of thumb.
The script is so-so. At times, it feels like Split doesn’t want to venture into new territory and this fact alone falters the movie and prevents it at the same time to fully develop its premise to culmination. Split offers flashbacks galore, probably one too many for its own sake. And from the supposedly 23 split personalities, Mr. Night only cares to show eight, while the others are fully absent from the film. From those 8, only few are fully fleshed out – the others equal to a gimmick. For a friendly reminder, Identity sported 9 or so split personalities grand total. Also Kudos to Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), who plays Casey Cooke extremely well and provides great opposition to McAvoy’s personality madness; worth mentioning is Betty Buckley portraying the psychologist Dr. Karen Fletcher.
Bottom line, Split is unique, claustrophobic and M. Night Shyamalan’s official return to form.