Friday, June 9, 2017

Movie Review: Split (2017)

Split (2016) - Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan; Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula.

By Kenny Howell

James McAvoy gives an acting class performance, and M. Night Shyamalan continues his rebirth (Shyamalanaissance?) in this entertaining thriller.

McAvoy (Atonement) plays Kevin, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder, meaning he has numerous personalities that pop out from time to time, depending on what situation he is in.

In addition to his brain disorder, Kevin also likes to kidnap young women, in this case, three teenagers he nabbed in a parking lot. He locks them in some sort of basement like dwelling where he lives, and cycles through his personalities each time he talks to them. He tells them of another personality that he fears will make an appearance, one more powerful and dangerous than they can ever imagine known as The Beast.

The women, led by the terrific Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) as Casey, try to take advantage of his nicer, more vulnerable personalities, but can't manage to outsmart him. A therapist played by Betty Buckley is also close to cracking what is wrong with Kevin, but she may be way too late, as The Beast is about to make his appearance at any time.

Shyamalan has gone back to basics, making simple, not overly ambitious projects that maximize his abilities. He no longer strives for the grandiose, he just tells cool little stories that have big impact. That is one of the things that made The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable so good, they felt so intimate and human. This veers more towards genre than those pictures (much like his last The Visit), but he has grounded them both so well, something like Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender were drastically in need of. There is a small twist at the end, but the story doesn't rely on it, which shows he is also moving from that structure, though still keeping it in his repertoire.

Despite all of that, the real draw of the film is McAvoy. He has to do all the heavy lifting because he has to handle 24 different personalities. He could have gone all over the place and taken that approach, but instead he gives each personality a little piece of the man hidden inside, keeping it more toward what the actual disorder may be instead of trying to win acting awards. It's not overly showy, and hits the right balance for what this needs, which is true of most aspects of the film.

Rating: ***

No comments:

Post a Comment