HOLLYWOOD—I love a good thriller, but I love a good thriller with a great twist even more. M. Night Shyamalan till this day delivered one of the biggest twists in cinema with his iconic 1999 movie “The Sixth Sense” when it reveals that Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead the entire movie.
Since then, he has delivered countless flicks some stellar “Unbreakable,” “The Visit,” some flops “Lady in the Water,” “Signs” and “The Happening.” Now, “The Village,” I actually liked, others not so much. However, his latest outing “Split” is one hell of a thriller. The movie stars James McAvoy as a man who suffers from dissociative identity disorder; so much to the point that he has 23 unique personalities. Does the audience get to see all 23 personalities, no, we do get to meet around 4-5 distinct characters who are interesting and frightening to say the least.
The premise of the movie follows Kevin (McAvoy), who kidnaps three teen girls and locks them away in a room that leaves the mind of the viewer boggling as to where the girls are being held captive. The movie opens with a thrilling scene that makes one question, what the hell would you do if a complete stranger invaded your vehicle? From there, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between our lead character Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), and her two pals, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) as they attempt to escape.
The narrative does a stellar job at establishing some of the unique personalities that live within Kevin’s mind, (his true self). We meet Barry, a fashionista, Patricia, a woman whose stern demeanor is one of the most frightening characters in my opinion, then we have Dennis, who like conspirator Patricia indulges in all things bad.
However, the one character who I think was an absolute treat is Hedwig, the 9 year-old boy who embodies one of Kevin’s 23 personalities. This character is layered, intriguing and McAvoy totally embodies him in a way that is purely frightening if you ask me. What Shyamalan does stellar is build this level of suspense; these girls are no idiots and are constantly tinkering with ideas in their head to escape this confined space.
In the midst of their turmoil, Barry pays constant visits to his therapist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who grapples with the notion that something is off with her patient. Little clues are delivered to her during each visit which prompts her to dig deeper as to what might be happening with Kevin and his connection to these missing girls.
Are their questionable theories on the level of realism with the movie? At times, but if you place yourself in the mind of Shyamalan, audiences should expect things to stretch in a direction that is not as straightforward in typical cinematic fashion.
The scariest of all of Kevin’s personalities lies with ‘The Beast,’ which is an evolution of a character that trumps all his other personalities and takes on animalistic instincts that are unstoppable. There is a reason this character has significance, which makes sense as the movie reaches its climax. I will pinpoint that McAvoy absolutely carries this movie with his layered performance that is fascinating to watch on the screen. I mean that dance sequence as Hedwig, left me dumbfounded. However, Taylor-Joy gives a strong performance as our heroine who realizes the person they’re dealing with is much more dangerous than they ever expected.
Now, getting to the elephant in the room is the big twist at the end of the movie. Shyamalan who is known for epic twists (till this day “The Sixth Sense” is one of the best), delivers a clever twist, but it only works if you have an idea of his previous works. So without spoiling the twist too much, some will totally understand what is happening, others, might be left saying, “Ok, what just happened.” A good twist only works if it makes perfect sense in the long run if you ask me.
Minus the twist, “Split” manages to deliver a top-notch thrill ride that is fun from beginning to end, not to mention the fact that you get to tinker with the idea that the mind is indeed a fascinating aspect of the human body.