Why is it that people seem to have a morbid fascination with dissociative identity disorder? Part of the reason could be the endless possibilities that the condition offers, and this is exactly what Shyamalan has taken advantage of with Split. Clearly McAvoy is in his element here – with a simple pucker of his mouth or raise of his eyebrow, he completely transforms himself. In one moment, young and innocent; a second later, completely monstrous. This is very much a one-man show. That’s not to say that there aren’t other strong performances here – namely from Anya Taylor-Joy, whose characteristically restrained performance strikes just the right chord – but they pale into insignificance when compared to the absolute feast that McAvoy gives us.
However, what starts as an interesting character study quickly descends into sci-fi chaos – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just turns out to be something slightly different to what you’re initially expecting. There’s no denying that Split doesn’t pack quite the punch of Shyamalan’s early work, but it’s pretty damn close.
Although Split is fascinating, tense and creepy to the point of discomfort, its main issue is that it puts all its cards on the table too early. Although Shyamalan does leave us a few characteristic twists and turns right up to the end, some of the reveals are irrelevant to the overall story, making you wonder why they weren’t omitted altogether.
While you will have the odd groan every time the girls attempt an escape plan that obviously isn’t going to work, yet for the most part this is a fresh and endlessly fascinating take on the hostage thriller genre. Cast aside any aspersions that you may have had about McAvoy in previous roles – this is a performance for the ages.
CAST: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
WRITER: M. Night Shyamalan
SYNOPSIS: After three girls are kidnapped by a man (McAvoy) with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them, while running away and staying alive.