Advice for Split…just sit back, relax and enjoy the one man show that is James McAvoy. Don’t wait for a twist. Don’t expect M. Night to drop the ball at some point. Just find a comfortably groove in your theater seat and picture yourself at one of the greatest one man shows you’ve seen in recent memory–maybe ever.
M. Night Shim Sham has certainly made a name for himself over the last decade or so–and not all in a good way. After breaking onto the scene and becoming known as the master of the twist it then quickly became his Achilles heel. When The Visit was released last year people were giddy with the idea that the filmmaker had reinvented himself–that the filmmaker who had grown to be waaay into himself as an artist and the twist machine was running on empty had finally turned a corner. Split continues that progression, but in a much different way.
McAvoy masterfully plays Kevin. A man who houses 23 distinctly different personalities that take turns sharing “the light.” When a trio of those personalities decide to go rogue and kidnap three young girls to prepare for the birth of a 24th personality its up to the girls to manipulate one of the weaker personalities to find any means of escape.
Yes, there are at least four other characters at play within Split, but let’s just be honest with one another–this is McAvoy’s show. And what a show it is. Of the three girls it’s Anya Taylor-Joy who takes the lead, and even her character, Casey, doesn’t really have her time to shine–the other two may as well have been set props. Joy makes the most of it, but with a foe like McAvoy she’s still just a tiny fish facing off against a great white shark. McAvoy puts on and changes so many masks throughout the course of the movie without ever skipping a beat. The slightest facial expressions and mannerisms are a showcase at his immense talent which is nearly lost in the “gimmick” of sitting down to watch a Shyamalan flick. Those waiting for a twist are sure to miss some of the nuances in McAvoy’s performance and some of the emotional resonance of Joy’s character arc. Even if you consider there to be a twist in the film’s last act, you’re missing the point of what the filmmaker is getting at instead of enjoying the mixology at play.
At this point I think it is safe to say that as a filmmaker Shyamalan has again hit stride. We can only hope that his rediscovered success does not lead him down the same rabbit hole as it did previously. Split is another extension of a filmmaker with an ambitious and distinct artistic side searching for a moment to shine and now that it’s out there, I sincerely hope it holds the light for as long as it can.
Beer Recommendation: None at this time. Maybe one of your other personalities can come back and check later? Cheers!