Sunday, January 15, 2017
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
WRITER: M. Night Shyamalan
Haley Lu Richardson
Brad William Henke
Three girls are kidnapped after leaving a birthday party. When they wake up, they are trapped in a small reinforced room with a bathroom. They are unaware that the man who has taken them, prisoner, has twenty-three personalities. He informs them that they've been chosen for the appearance of what will be the frightening twenty-fourth personality known as The Beast. The girls must escape before he emerges.
So when M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with The Sixth Sense, it catapulted him into the spotlight as a director to watch. For a lot of cinephiles, his second feature Unbreakable was also a huge success and a critical darling. I, myself, didn't enjoy it. I fell asleep in the cinema. I was brought back on the bandwagon with Signs. I found it incredibly creepy and well made even if the twist of sorts loses its way. The rest of the world would consider his next film to be what was essentially his fall from grace. The Village for me was extremely underrated, but it's not without its faults.
Over the next nine years, his career would be what some people would describe as a monumental mess of epic proportions. We saw him drop the dark fantasy Lady In The Water which missed the mark, His most violent movie to date The Happening was the unintentional comedy of the year, the big-budget projects The Last Airbender and sci-fi movie After Earth were soulless and sadly didn't do much for his name. With a run that bad, it looked like the end was nigh for M. Night Shyamalan.
It wasn't until he turned his hand to television with the first season of the Twin Peaks inspired Wayward Pines that we saw the heartbeat start again. It was no longer that flatline. The show was a lot of fun and at times dark and scary. He even managed to deliver some decent chills in the lower budget found-footage film The Visit. With Split, though, he is well and truly back with a vengeance. While the movie isn't perfect but compared to that run he was having only four years earlier, he is on fire of late.
Split gets going almost immediately. Our three girls are kidnapped within minutes of the film starting. If you've seen the trailer, you will be well aware of the scene in the car. This is an incredibly intense scene, and pretty much from that moment on, the movie fluctuates between heightened dread to extremely uncomfortable and back to high tension again. Whenever James McAvoy is on the screen, this film is just a sight to behold. It had me on the edge of my seat, and my palms were sweaty.
What many won't realise as it's never given away in the trailers. Split touches on some pretty dark and uncomfortable subject matter. There is a subplot that runs parallel to the main plot involving Anya Taylor-Joy's character Casey as a child. It deals with children and abuse. We also have a pedophiliac uncle that was at times distressing and difficult to watch. A scene in the forest with her uncle had the entire audience that I saw it with were squirming in their seats. It's all done off screen but you know what's happening and it's very unpleasant.
The other subplot that deals with James McAvoy's character visiting his therapist are also brilliant to watch. It's just enjoyable to merely watch James McAvoy and Betty Buckley working off of each other. I found that every time he returned to her office, I got this almost nurturing and motherly vibe to it. I think Betty Buckley is on par with James McAvoy and matches him at every single step of the way. As is Anya Taylor-Joy. All three of the main actors just smash it out of the park with their roles in Split.
The build-up towards the end of Split is absolutely brilliant. I can't really fault it. I just loved the entire thing. Where Split does go wrong for me is that the whole film builds towards this notion that this twenty-fourth personality is going to be this monster. I assumed he would be this creature as the movie drops hints at something darker as does the poster. We essentially get a man who grows muscle structure, is faster and can climbs walls. I can't say that I wasn't a little disappointed with the reveal. I'd have loved a transformation into a creature.
Another issue that I had with Split was the fact that the whole child abuse subplot, it sort of goes nowhere. I thought that with the constant flashbacks to her past that we were going to see something come of that story with her uncle. Instead, we don't get a resolution. I think what we are meant to take away from the film is that after this terrible event with The Beast, we can expect that Casey is no longer some damaged woman. She is going to fight back when her disgusting uncle comes to collect her.
[THE BIG TWIST SPOILER] Lastly, I can't write a Split review without revealing my thoughts on the big twist of the film. It's hard not to mention how jaw-dropping the twist is and I have to vent. As someone who wasn't a fan of Unbreakable, I was still floored that M. Night Shyamalan was able to create this connection between Split and Unbreakable. I loved that this was in the same universe as Unbreakable. It was just one last shock that floored me in the film. Having Bruce Willis return was excellent. Half of the younger audience was left all asking 'What was that? What does that mean?' Had me laughing to myself.
DEATH TOLL: 3
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Girls are sprayed in the face with liquid chloroform.
- A deer is shown dead after a hunting trip.
- Someone has their spine broken.
- A girl is seen dead on the floor, and her open stomach is shown.
- A man is shown cannibalising a woman's belly.
- Someone's leg is bitten open.
- Someone is shot in the chest with a shotgun.
I wouldn't call Split a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan. I think that is reserved for his last film, The Visit. Split is M. Night Shyamalan knocking it out of the park. A home run if you will. Split has a few little problems with some of the subplots, and it was a bit of a let down with The Beast reveal but this is a solid thriller. The acting is fantastic, and James McAvoy should've been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar as he is in career-best form. The movie is at times intense and uncomfortable.