Split  (2016)

M. Night Shyamalan is a polarizing director/writer. I enjoyed the first four M. Night Shyamalan movies, but I totally understand the criticism that even early on in his career he started to stumble after "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable". I haven't been in a rush to see any of his movies in over a decade, but I still like to give them a chance. I like James McAvoy, so I had decent hopes.

The premise is fairly simple: three teen girls get abducted by a man who has multiple personalities. The rub is that the man doesn't have the usual one or two voices in his head; he has 23. Each one is totally different from the other, from their name to their voice to their mannerisms, even as far as biological differences. One personality is diabetic and needs insulin shots, while the rest are fine. That aspect plays a key role, the idea that the mind is powerful enough to change the body, and push the limits of human potential.

The psychology of how Kevin (the 'base' personality) rotates through his personalities is actually pretty interesting, as his psychiatrist has spent years talking with each of them, establishing their role in the "group". Each one is aware that the other is taking up space in Kevin's brain, but only one is allowed to be "in the light" and control the body. The entirety of the movie rested on McAvoy's shoulders, and was totally dependent on how well he could shift from persona to persona. We don't get to see him embody all 23, but the main few that he shows off are solid. He's able to make the change from stern to matronly to childish, and does so with more than just changing his voice. His mannerisms change, his posture adjusts, and he really does manage to portray different characters in the same body.

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Casey, the only girl who is given a backstory and the only one who has a personality beyond surface-level. She does a fine job, even though a majority of her job is to stare wide-eyed while the other girls panic. I didn't occur to me while watching, but something about Anya Taylor-Joy seems fake, like a doll. It made her performance a bit better actually, because it highlighted the closed-in nature of her personality, hidden under a pretty facade.

I know discussing spoilers for a two year old movie is a weird grey area...and I hate doing spoilers regardless of the age of the movie. I'll just say that I enjoyed the culmination of Kevin's mental struggles, and thought it was fun that Shyamalan gave a direct tie-in to one of his previous movies. The tie-in itself isn't really a spoiler...it's more of an Easter egg that's not really hidden. Does that make sense? It makes as much sense as anything in a Shyamalan movie, so for the most, I say just go with it.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Split" a 6 out of 10.

 

 

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