M. Night Shyamalan is a polarizing filmmaker, no doubt. He has created several modern genre masterpieces but has also created some of the most critically and commercially despised films as well. With 2015’s The Visit it appeared that he was on an upswing but it left people wondering, “can it last?”.
I am happy to say that the filmmaker continues his comeback with the first great film of 2017.
Split tells the story of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she and two of her classmates are abducted by a man with 23 different personalities (James McAvoy). To say more about the film would be a disservice to some superb storytelling so I’ll stick closer to the stellar performances.
McAvoy takes what could have easily been hammy and shlocky and plays each of his alters with care and vigor. Never are any of the personalities surface level. He adds subtlety and nuance, giving each one depth and allows the audience to connect in some way with them all.
Taylor-Joy is also really incredible as the equal measures collected and terrified Casey. Her backstory is a tragic one and again could have easily been ham-fisted but is handled with care and consideration.
The real take away for me, however, was Betty Buckley’s Dr. Fletcher. Her performance is so heavy with expositional dialog that I was sure it wasn’t going to work but she handles all of it with such earnestness and she makes you totally buy the science about what the film is selling, even as it borders into “off the rails” territory towards the end.
People will no doubt be talking about the “twist” ending. I will say that you shouldn’t go in expecting a standard Shyamalan big punch out ending. He gives you a beautifully told story that is taut and heartfelt and the twist is almost an afterthought to the wonderful filmmaking of the previous 2 hours.
4.5 out of 5 Definitely get to the theater and check this one out.