*Originally written January 16th, 2017*
"Unleash the beast"
I had high hopes for Split. I am a fan of Shyamalan, despite this triple whammy of garbage in the form of The Happening, Avatar: The Last Airbender and After Earth. He luckily made a comeback in 2015 with The Visit, so I was expecting this to be another part of his comeback, which it was. Split is not what I expected, I was expecting a more "fun" film, but instead it's a slow-burning and tense film that explodes into utter nonsense and chaos. Which I loved.
A lot has been said about James McAvoy's performance as someone split personality disorder who kidnaps 3 teenage girls and keeps them locked up until he's ready to unleash his final personality 'The Beast'. It's clearly evident that McAvoy is having the time of his life. The focus is on a few of his 23 personalities, each creepy, unsettling and at times funny, in their own way. This is also the second time McAvoy has performed in drag since 2013's excellent 'Filth'. I've got a soft spot for seeing actors in drag, so this was a joy.
Split is at its most entertaining when we see McAvoy having fun with his different roles. At some point in the film I realized, this wasn't to be taken seriously and enjoyed it all the more for it. Despite that, there are some genuine moments of tension and unsettling scenes. I was suprised at some of the uncomfortable places they go with these young girls.
Out the young girls that are kidnapped, the only one who leaves an impression is Anya Taylor-Joy who I only really know from The Witch, but she's great here. I'm not entirely sure what her arc or what we were meant to take from it. There's some self-harm in there that in the end, might send the wrong message. There's also interment flashbacks where we learn about her childhood and why she's the way she is. I'm not entirely sure about some of M. Night's earlier work, but his last film had similar themes to do with daddy issues. So that seems to be popping up in his films lately.
With the direction, M. Night has made a gorgeous film filled with tons of beautiful shots and camera work. The disgusting factory the girls are kept in is visually interesting and led way for some very unsettling and claustraphobic scenes. The score is also really good and elevated the feeling. It reminded me a little of Sicario.
M. Night is a man known mostly for his twists. Some good (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) and some downright moronic (The Happening). I won't spoil it, but in the chaotic final scenes things get a little silly, weird and supernatural, which I'm not too sure how I feel about. But the final twist is definitely one I didn't see coming and makes me very excited for Shyamalan's future films. I'd also recommend watching some of his earlier films to understand the twist. That's all I'll say.
Split is another film to add to M. Night Shyamalan's comeback, and to be honest, I might even go as far to say that M. Night is competely back. A tense, fun, beautifully shot thriller that features two great performances from James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Split is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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