Ok, I had zero interest in Split when it came out because, well, it’s written and directed by M. Night Shymalan, and he really hasn’t had a good film since Unbreakable. Some don’t even include that in the good ones. But I couldn’t even tolerate some of his later films, like The Village or The Happening. Ugh.
But a very surprising thing happened shortly after Split came out. People were saying good things. Now, we know how that can go. We can’t always go around just trusting random people when they say good things about a M. Night Shaymalan film, so I was curious, yes, but not hopeful.
But it recently turned up in my On Demand list, so I decided to feed my curiosity. And, whether it’s the fact that I only spent $ 5 on it, or because I was in the comfort of my own couch, Split is easily the best film Shaymalan has made since Unbreakable. In fact, it’s actually rather good regardless of comparisons to his other films. So, since it appears no one else at CFN reviewed it, for what I assume are obvious reasons, I thought I’d leave my two cents here since it’s now available on streaming and DVD/Bluray.
Three girls are kidnapped by a man diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities. They must find a way to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightening new 24th.
James McAvoy plays Dennis (and Barry, Patricia, Hedwig, Orwell, Jade, Kevin Wendell Crumb, The Beast), the kidnapper with many personalities. And he’s rather good. He plays each distinct personality deftly and with aplomb. He never comes across as cheesy to me. And the feeling of impending fear of waiting for The Beast to appear is effective.
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan), is Casey Cooke, one of the three kidnapped girls. There is an interesting back story to her character that seems superfluous, yet eventually results in something very relevant.
Betty Buckley plays Dr. Karen Fletcher, Dennis’s therapist/psychiatrist and is also solid. Pretty much all the cast is on point, though the other two kidnapped girls are not a lot more than two dimensional, but they don’t need to be.
The surprising thing with Split is that I never felt like things were improbable, or random. M. Night Shaymalan always seems to have a very carefully laid out plan. Nothing seems unneeded. At least in his films that are good. Well, even in Signs, but then, that was sort of the point of that one.
Split is careful (?) not to be as “twisty” as Shaymalan’s trademark films are. There’s no big “a-ha” moment, which makes it feel like a more of a regular film, not one with a tired gimmick. There is, however, a semi-stinger scene that is important to watch. It definitely puts Split into a specific context that will be important later. (MINOR SPOILER: Shaymalan wanted this film to connect to Unbreakable.)
So, as you may have read in a previous Film News column, M. Night is making a sequel to Unbreakable, and it’s titled Glass. It will star Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce WIllis, McAvoy, and Taylor-Joy. Make of that as you will. It’s in ImDb.
I actually really enjoyed Split, and will shockingly give it nearly four kittenhands. It isn’t perfect, but it’s the film M. Night should’ve made after Unbreakable (and nothing else). If you can let go of your cynicism long enough to give it a chance, you may be surprised. I found it rather satisfying.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, just as, or more, surprised as anyone that I enjoyed this. I’m actually interested in his film Glass.