Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review of SPLIT: Dangerously Dissociative

January 18, 2017

M. Night Shyamalan earned phenomenal success writing and directing "The Sixth Sense" in 1999, which even earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. Since then though, he never quite achieved the same kind of excellence again. Even if his name still generated interest, his last six films all earned generally lousy reviews. His latest film though had a striking and promising trailer with potent acting by James McAvoy. I simply had to check it out.

Three teenage girls,  Claire, Marcia and Casey were abducted in broad daylight after a party. Their captor Kevin (James McAvoy) terrorizes them as he transforms into different personalities every time he sees them -- a obsessive-compulsive fellow, a fussy female, a a 9-year old Kanye West fanboy. The girls need to escape before the impending appearance of his most dangerous persona about to take over Kevin totally.

The dungeon scenes were interrupted with scenes showing Kevin consulting his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher. She was played by a wonderful Betty Buckley, whom I have not seen onscreen since her days as the stepmom on TV's "Eight is Enough" in the late 1970s. There were also some bizarre scenes about Casey (an emo Anya Taylor-Joy) recalling her experiences as a five-year old girl (Izzie Leigh Coffey) learning how to hunt with her father. They mainly serve to establish Casey's distant personality and unusual capabilities, as well as add further tension.

As can be predicted for a film about Dissociative Identity Disorder, the role of Kevin Crumb is an acting showcase for James McAvoy. This psychological condition had already resulted in acting awards and nominations for several actors like Joanne Woodward ("Three Faces of Eve"), Sally Field ("Sibyl") and Edward Norton ("Primal Fear"). McAvoy played these personality shifts distinctly and smoothly, without really going overboard -- until the beastly chaos in the climax. There was an amazing scene where McAvoy was changing from one personality to several others in one long continuous take.    

M. Night Shyamalan definitely recovers a lot of lost ground with this eerie claustrophobic masterpiece of dread and suspense. He makes full use of his underground maze of dingy windowless rooms to create heart-stopping tension; with skillful editing (by Luke Franco Ciarrocchi) and atmospheric musical scoring (by West Dylan Thordson). Stay up to the very last frame for one last surprise before the credits roll. 

Admittedly, the pacing and length could have been more streamlined in the second act as things may tend to feel a bit repetitive. But overall, this was a step in the right direction for Shyamalan which I hope will be sustained in his next projects. 7/10.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm a big fan of M.Night Shyamalan. His twists are crazy, pure crazy!!! Loved Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Happening & Village!!! Watched The Visit, Signs & Air Bender!!! I'm yet to watch the rest! I'll definitely watch this too.

  3. OMG! 23-24 personalities??? That is really interesting! I was married to a schizophrenic so I kinda have an idea on what that is like. I will definitely look for a copy of this movie in stores. I want to watch it!

  4. M. Night Shyamalan is really great at this genre since Sixth Sense. Split likes a really nerve-wracking suspense.

  5. He has a lot personality huh? looks like a great movie. gonna check this out.

    - Elizabeth O.

  6. I loved this movie! Watched it while I was on a plane actually so just imagine my reactions hahaha! The ending though, I hope there's part 2.