-Eli Hoff and Nyke Solovyev-
The latest creation of the plot twist innovator M. Night Shyamalan, Split, is a lovechild of the suspenseful and psycho-oriented Silence of the Lambs and the nerve wracking and intense 10 Cloverfield Lane. The center of the action, James Macavoy’s Kevin Crumb, also known as Denis, AKA Barry, AKA Patricia, and around 19 other people, has a severe case of a split personality disorder. Macavoy delivers a solid performance, often framed by his character’s psychiatrist; the calm, curious, and reasoning Dr. Karen Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley. Ana Taylor-Joy portrays the film’s protagonist, Casey, a quiet loner. And it is through flashbacks that we learn of Casey’s troubled past, which more easily allows her to sympathize with “Kevin.” Her character, though interesting, doesn’t evolve in any major way, instead the movie has us focus on Kevin’s fascinating personalities and Casey’s struggle to survive.
“Split” was filmed almost like a horror movie, with dim lighting and a sterile setting emphasizing the hostile environment the characters found themselves in. Shyamalan always has a vision, and his directing style allows us to sit back while he slowly reveals it through intimate conversations between characters. While the movie initially seemed like a psychological thriller, it also seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. And to be frank, the transition is not as smooth as may have been intended.
The movie starts as a brilliant psychological thriller, with a lot of potential and spice, and naturally, the promised plot twist and climax are expected to stick with the theme and provide a terrific revelation. However, what we get is a sudden and uncalled-for transformation of the movie into the realm of science fiction. And while the ending is still rather epic and engaging, with some semi-philosophical concepts implanted into the grand finale and a post-credits scene (meant to clarify everything, or confuse us even more), the unexpected change of strategy seems to undermine the overall buildup of the movie and arguably kills its momentum. One is left with severe cognitive dissonance: just witnessing a very well filmed and fulfilling movie, and yet the inner psycho killer lover is left unsatisfied. While Split doesn’t meet the standard set by The Sixth Sense, it marks the return of Shyamalan’s tried and true thriller style. So regardless of the issues previously mentioned, it is still worth watching. After all, watching James Mcavoy jumping from a perverted OCD maniac to a 9 year old Kanye fan to an obsessive Mrs. Doubtfire was due the price of a ticket.