M. Night Shyamalan’s latest psychological thriller Split is a wonderful return to form for the much maligned director and proves he’s still more than capable of surprising audiences.
Split follows Kevin Crumb (James MCAvoy) a tortured man who suffers from multiple personality disorder and is the host of 23 separate personas.
And while the majority of personas are benevolent, Kevin finds himself compelled by two psychopathic personalities, Dennis and Patricia, to kidnap three young girls with plans to sacrifice them to a mythical 24th personality, The Beast.
Yeah it sounds really stupid I know but bear with me…
While it may sound like damning it with fake praise Split is Shyamalan’s best film in a long time, possibly since Unbreakable, and it’s a thoroughly entertaining if slightly hokey thriller, full of enough twists and turns to keep audiences captivated.
The film’s dedication to cranking up the tension and mystery in the first two acts means that when the film enters its third act, and we get the typical horror nonsense, it comes as a cathartic release rather than over the top cheese.
Part of the reason the film works as well as it does with it’s comicbooky script is McAvoy, who’s an acting dynamo, transforming into a whole horde of different personas all of whom feel like completely different people.
There’s one impressive scene where with just his body language he signals a change in persona’s that’s so subtle it’s almost imperceptible and it was just astonishing to watch on screen.
Unfortunately while I did enjoy Split a lot more than I was expecting it did have one major problem, its treatment of the mentally ill.
I think it’s always dangerous to imply that mental illness is some kind of superpower, it feels disingenuous and belittles the genuine battles that people fight everyday.
Thankfully the film does tackle this issue in a scene that’s going to leave a lot of people very happy and a lot of other people very confused.
While I can’t say everyone’s going to love Split I thought it was a good film and it’s got me very excited for whatever Shyamalan’s doing next.