Split is a psychological thriller following three girls who are kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities. The film primarily follows Casey, one of the kidnapped girls, and three of the man’s personalities, Dennis, Miss Patricia, and Hedwig. These three personalities have split away from the other 20, as they believe a 24th personality is coming to consume the girls. This is the latest film from director M. Night Shyamalan, and if you are familiar with his previous work then you know that he has had very high points and very low points, and I am very happy to say that this film feels like a return to form for him, I enjoyed it a lot. There is quite a big spoiler in this film which I will avoid giving away. Split stars James McAvoy as many personalities, alongside Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula.
This film feels like it should have come out around the same time as ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Unbreakable.’ Split feels very similar to ‘Unbreakable’ in its style, it has the same slow build up and atmosphere that that film had, although this film is much more tense and suspenseful than ‘Unbreakable.’ I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film, it’s very gripping and at times psychologically disturbing, and it doesn’t rely on jump scares to create fear but manages to make you feel like something bad is coming. This film also deals with something slightly supernatural (as the Multiple-Personality Disorder portrayed in this film goes beyond the real life condition, as it explores some personalities having disabilities and levels of strength that the others don’t) but, like ‘Unbreakable,’ it deals with these fantastical elements in a very serious and realistic way. The film makes it all feel very tangible, it feels like it could be real while you’re watching it as it’s just the next step in a condition that is real.
The believability of the condition is sold by an outstanding performance by James McAvoy. He pretty much plays 9 different people throughout the film without it seeming fake. He makes each person so distinct that you can always tell who he is even when he doesn’t change costumes. I like the fact that the film doesn’t show you all the personalities this guy has, as I feel like that would have made them feel less unique as they would probably start to blend together. Instead, you get a very in depth look at a few of them. Some of them are funny and likeable, others are intimidating, and some are down-right scary. I was especially impressed by his performance of Hedwig, who was the personality of a 9 year old boy. It would have been easy to get this role wrong and for it to seem silly as an adult acting like a nine year old would normally come across, but McAvoy plays it with such sincerity that it actually ended up being one of my favourite characters. He was funny at times, like a nine year old would be, but he also had a disturbing attitude that made him very intriguing. He also had a scene as Hedwig where he was dancing to music and it was an amazing moment on so many different levels. I also liked that McAvoy’s character was actually relatable, he wasn’t just a scary guy with a mental illness, but you actually felt for him and seeing some of his darker personalities doing the things they do actually made me feel a little sad for him. The performances of the kidnapped girls where all also really good. Casey was very interesting and very well played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She was an introvert who seemed to take being kidnapped rather calmly, as she seemed to know what to do and not do in this situation. The film was peppered with short flashbacks to her childhood which added to her character and made her a very interesting but tragic protagonist. The other two girls were also well acted by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula. They were the most ordinary characters in the film as they seemed like every day teenagers and acted how most people would probably act in that situation.
Overall, Split was a very intense and enjoyable psychological thriller with a great twist which elevates the film rather than makes it worse, like some more recent Shyamalan twists have done (that is all I will say about the twist). It had great performances and direction which made a very creepy experience but also one which I feel I would re-watch a lot.
P.S. The twist at the very end literally made me so excited!! On a different note, a really annoying group of people where behind us in the cinema yesterday so I give props to this film for keeping me engaged while people were talking behind me.