‘Split’ is a movie that can be taken in a number of ways. It’s can be described as a film that brings M. Night Shyamalan back to his suspense roots and also a real acting challenge for James McAvoy. By having to juggle 23 different personalities, it’s these characters, as imagined inside McAvoy’s body, that give ‘Split’ its real depth and allow both McAvoy and ‘Split’ to shine.
...It's these characters, as imagined inside McAvoy's body, that give 'Split' its real depth...
Fans of previous split personality disorder dramas like the evergreen ‘Psycho’ and Georges Sluizer’s original ‘The Vanishing’ will be entertained with the set up and familiar ground that ‘Split’ initially treads. In the latter half these influences then give way to others in the shape of Michael Mann’s excellent ‘Manhunter’ which slowly starts to dominate proceedings. However it’s in ‘Split’s’ supporting characters and the way that their back stories are paid scant attention – all propped up with convenience and questionable content – which ultimately undermines McAvoy’s fireworks. So whilst you don’t feel that you are watching the polished M.Knight Shyamalan behind ‘The Sixth Sense’, you are at least watching one that is a healthy step away from his thuddingly dull output of recent years.
That said, in keeping with his previous movies M. Knight Shyamalan does not disappoint on his own tropes and the inevitable arrival of the surprise, twist ending. Whilst much has been made of ’Split’s’ finale in early reviews, and many hints have been dropped about what actually happens, when it comes, it does so at a price. It’s certainly not the ending you’re expecting but its shadow only lengthens the distance left for Shyamalan to travel back in his return as first-tier filmmaker.
‘Split’, like last year’s promising ‘The Visit’ is on the right road, however I hope there’ll be more genuine twists and turns in the path up ahead.