Split: Powerhouse McAvoy Performance in Uneven Shyamalan Thriller
Anya Taylor-JoyBetty Buckley...
M. Night Shyamalan
In 1 Cinema
Although stylishly shot, in telling the tale of a man whose unsettling mental condition who has 23 different personalities living inside him, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest psychological thriller, Split, is surprisingly low on the tension its gripping trailers suggested. Powerhouse
The movie begins with three being kidnapped in broad daylight by a mysterious man who ends up taking them to what appears to be his home; an unknown location, buried deep underground.
Without being able to contact the outside world, the girls are soon introduced to their kidnapper, Kevin (McAvoy in one of his most scenery-chewing performances to date); a terribly broken man who, as we learn, has developed a specific defense-mechanism – as a result of a childhood trauma – in the form of twenty-three different personalities. His most dominant personas include an obsessive-compulsive maniac called Dennis, a nine-year old boy with a lisp called Hedwig and a creepy matriarchal figure named Patricia. As the girls struggle to find a way out, Kevin’s therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Buckley) is becoming increasingly worried about her patient who is beginning to show signs of developing a twenty-fourth personality.
In writing and directing the film, Shyamalan goes for a more traditional and straightforward approach than previous efforts, battling with ideas such as childhood trauma, abuse and the sheer power of one’s mind in order to deal and perhaps even suppress pain.
Split is a handsomely shot feature which revels in its sense of isolation and claustrophobia by cleverly framing the space. Most of the story takes place in Kevin’s underground dungeon and while McAvoy’s terrific performance captures the range and depth of all of the characters residing within his character’s psyche, there’s an unfortunate lack of real nail-biting tension throughout which prevents the movie from climaxing whatever tension it tries to build.
Like its main character, Split suffers from a kind of personality disorder; the film lands somewhere between creepy and downright silly – especially in the last few minutes of the film when the big twist comes to light.
While this is certainly a step up from the likes of The Last Airbender and After Earth, it’s still miles off Shyamalan’s magnum opus, The Sixth Sense.