By Hannah Craven
Normally a response to a M Night Shyamalan film is “What’s the twist?” but this time, Split is the twist. Split uses a unique and different film approach which I have never seen before in this genre. The whole films is based around Kevin’s (James McAvoy) split personality and each of his different personalities inside of him. M Night Shyamalan is famous for his psychological thrillers such as The Sixth Sense and The Village. He even made his own genre in the late 90’s which has impacted upon and changed films even today. Over the last ten years, his films have been disappointing; he has made films in different types of genres such as After Earth and The Last Airbender. He tried to make big successful blockbusters which didn’t work. This time, he has gone back to his roots. A small film, with a small budget and only a handful of main characters. This is the type of film in which he shines making. M Night Shyamalan is back to his best with Split.
Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), has a dissociative identity disorder: he currently has 23 personalities in his body. He abducts three teenage girls, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), telling them they are important for a mysterious cause. Casey tries to play each personality against the other.
James McAvoy is at his best playing twenty-three roles in one motion picture. The first personality we first meet is Dennis, a stern looking man who kidnaps the teenagers at the shopping mall. Then we see Patricia, a strict woman, before seeing nine-year-old Hedwig, who is very innocent and loves Kanye West. This shows the diversity between each character and how challenging as an actor it is to play all these forms in one body. James McAvoy has shown us that he can play a vulnerable character before, in the role of Bruce, who is also a cross dresser with split personality disorder in Filth (2013). McAvoy uses an American accent except for Patricia who has a posh British accent. His accents were precise, there was no problematic accents.
Casey, played by Anya Taylor-Joy was such a complex interesting character which worked so well. I felt like the audience could empathise with her as she was the normal teenage girl who has her own issues but becomes a fighter. Anya Taylor- Joy is known for being in the film The Witch and I can tell she is a young upcoming talent; this won’t be the last time we see her.
Split focuses on three storyline strands, Number 1 is the girls trying to escape from Kevin’s different personalities. Number 2 is Casey’s childhood and Number 3 is Kevin’s relationship with his psychiatrist who believes that a person can make themselves into a different personality, such as somebody so believing they have diabetes that they suddenly have it. The three-strand storyline is ideal as it doesn’t overload the film and makes the key focus the characters.
The teenage girls are placed into a bunker, underground cell which is very stark, except for the white scraped clean Bathroom. There is something unsettling about this place; it made myself feel claustrophobic in the same way that I felt when I watched Room (2016.) Mcavoy is unsettling as the audience never know who he will be next and how stable he will be. The concept of the film is perfection, Kevin is so much scarier having a dissociative identity order than if he was a crazed madman. Multiple personalities are cinematic stables, which have been used in a range of different films over the years such as Psycho and Primal Fear. The Cinematography is by Mike Gioulakis and the use of dark, confined old location worked so well. It’s a perfect setting for a horror prison/basement. This film is mainly set in the basement and at Kevin’s psychiatrist Dr Karen Fletcher’s office (Betty Buckley). This works as the film focuses on James Mcavoy’s performance rather than a big location, which M Night Shyamalan focused on in After Earth. There is something extraordinary about James Mcavoy, in the way he looks cheeky and even dangerous. He can play a range of strange unique characters which works so well.
There are flaws in Split though, I felt that the final part of the film dragged after the excitement and tension that had been brought in. I felt the ending was disappointing. It left an unsatisfied feeling even though I knew where the film was coming from. The script was poor by M Night Shyamalan, I felt like the highlights of the film were used in the trailer and that he used all his energy writing an outstanding beginning and middle to the film but the ending was dire. I do feel this is because he didn’t have his famous twist, I even started to imagine different endings in my head and was disappointed when Shyamalan didn’t go that way with his writing. I also found I wasn’t that frightened, I went in wanting to be shocked and even terrified. The film was creepy, but it didn’t have the scary element which didn’t make me dwell on the film for days. But I am so glad that Shyamalan went back to his original roots and kept away from C.G.I and complicated storylines. This film was about Kevin and his 23 personalities, which is what worked. This wasn’t the best Shyamalan film but it wasn’t the worst. However, this is Shyamalan best quality film in ten years.