M. Night Shyamalan’s Split is a return to form after his earlier hits like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. A stylish psychological thriller about three teenage girls who are kidnapped and held captive by a man with dissociative personality disorder (DID) Split is definitely one of Shyamalan’s best films – possible best ever.
Split opens with Casey (Anya Taylor Joy) a loner, and her two classmates Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) being kidnapped, and locked in a basement by Kevin (James McAvoy) who tells them they must wait for ‘The Beast’ to take them. We soon learn that Casey, despite her outsider and differences from the other two girls, is perhaps the most able to cope with the strangeness and horror that awaits them. Casey becomes the heroine of the film, and she has a sad past herself, shown through various flashbacks, which make you want her to get out of her situation even more.
James McAvoy is fantastic as the terrifying lead Kevin, in what has to be one of his best roles so far. Although it says 23 personalities on the poster, we only ever see him play about nine of them with four, fashion designer Barry, OCD and leader Dennis, sinister Priscilla, and nine-year-old, lisping Hedwig, getting the most screen time. It is difficult to take on two roles in the same body, but McAvoy seems to relish the multitude of roles before him.
McAvoy is a triumph in this role; funny, spine-chilling, monstrous and terrifying in turn, and with a simple turn of the head or shift in stance he changes from one personality to the other. And what’s more impressive is how few props are used to create these characters, just a change of clothes is all it takes.
Guiding us through the changes of Kevin’s personalities and the psychology behind it is therapist Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) a specialist in DID, who becomes increasingly concerned over the film about Kevin – and his other personalities – behaviour. In many ways, Betty is in the same position as the viewer about what is happening.
As with all Shyamalan films, there are a few twists to be expected, some more easy to spot before they happen than others, but nevertheless, the film is packed fun of great moments, and a few funnier surprises too (thanks to McAvoy’s fantastic performance). Go watch it!