Anya Taylor-Joy and two other teenage girls are kidnapped by James McAvoy – a man with 23 separate personalities. The three of them must try to escape before a new “super personality” is formed.
Much like The Visit, Split is M. Night Shyamalan sticking to the simple high concept thriller mould, with a little of his directorial pizzazz thrown in. This decision to keep it simple and not let himself get carried away with twists and turns (though there are still plenty of these, just comparatively few for a Shyamalan feature) is replayed with a very solid – if quite silly – thriller. Split is proof that the Visit wasn’t a one off, and that Shyamalan is back or at least nearly back. Personally I don’t think that Split is as good as the Visit, but it’s certainly better than anything post-signs.
The main reason that Split works at all is that James McAvoy is so excellent in the central role(s). While we don’t see every single one of the fabled 23/4 personalities, we do see a solid 7 or 8 and each of them are entirely different characters. McAvoy appears to physically change with each persona and if the dialogue was more consistent I think it would be a truly amazing performance. Anya Taylor-Joy whom has so incredible in The Witch, is given far less to do here but is still very solid with what she’s given. Elsewhere there isn’t much of note supporting cast-wise.
The film itself is pretty good. It’s not as gripping as I think it could and should have been, and I think perhaps Shyamalan is playing it a little safe – definitely safer than The Visit – but while for me this doesn’t pay off, the Box Office would suggest that it really is. It’s also probably fair for a man in Shyamalan’s position to not want to go fully balls to the wall after he’d only just scraped back some integrity.
Overall, I don’t think Split is as good as it could have been, but James McAvoy is very good and it really looks like Shyamalan after taking a 15 odd year hiatus from making good films is finally back on track.