When three girls are abducted by an eerily calm kidnapper, they soon learn while prisoners that this man has split personality syndrome and that one of the personalities wants them for something special.
James McAvoy is absolutely fantastic as the lead, utterly convincing in each of the unique personas he’s given. Including accent, posture, and body language, with each being so different from the other, it really is an actor’s ultimate showcase, McAvoy disappears in every single character and because he’s so brilliant at being this chameleon, it always leaves the audience on edge of when the next personality is going to “step into the light”. Easily McAvoy’s best performance and he elevates the film insurmountably and truly made the role his own.
Speaking of brilliant performances, Anya Taylor-Joy has got eyes made for horror films, they’re so big and emotive, she relays fear through them so easily it’s seriously impressive! She’s great in the film as the outcast turned leader of the group. The writing for her character often felt derivative of a lot of horror clichés but even still Taylor-Joy absolutely crushed it, being thoroughly convincing and a great underdog. The scenes she shared with McAvoy, she held her own time and time again, sometimes outclassing him in certain parts.
As with most Shyamalan films, the story is intriguing and instantly has you hooked, but translating that to a feature length film is tricky and he still hasn’t quite mastered keeping the story a constant pace here. Despite the film’s runtime being just under 2 hours, the middle sags a far amount as the pacing drops off a cliff. The intrigue and suspense take a back seat to a lot of scenes that felt like they will eventually lead to something but as the credits roll, they amount to nothing.
A good amount of time is spent in flashbacks of Taylor-Joy’s character Casey’s childhood, and as the film approaches it’s final act it seems to be tying in and leading to something, alluding to her past being somewhat similar to another characters. As the tension builds towards the finale, with the connection of a similar history, there is an expectation of this huge reveal and a release of all the tension. Then it doesn’t happen, while there is some great character development, it feels deflating as it doesn’t seem like what the film was building towards.
Having said that, the film is filled with tense scenes that are accompanied by a brilliant score by West Dylan Thordson, who is responsible for the phenomenal score of ‘The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst’. As with most horror films, the score heightens the sense of terror but also allow for moments of release and the score here is definitely a cut above most standard horror film music.
Split is shot beautifully for the most part, there’s especially a scene towards the end of the film that is a very unique hallway shot. It isn’t exactly pretty to look at, but it’s technically very impressive and very unique.
The very first scene with McAvoy’s character and his eerie calmness is definitely a memorable one and will go down as one Shyamalan’s best scenes ever. It’s such a stark contrast to what the audience was shown at the start of the film. McAvoy had such a presence about him, like a natural disaster, just unstoppable and infallible.