By Ian Crow
M. Night Shyamalan is the perfect example of a director going out of his comfort zone. Acclaimed for his fantastic take on the thriller genre which includes the brilliant Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, he went out of what he does best and made a sci-fi in After Earth that turned out to be terrible and The Last Airbender, an action adventure movie that also turned out to terrible. After a couple of years, Shyamalan returned back to the big screen with The Visit. Another horror/thriller, it wasn’t the best of films, but the movie showcased his talent behind the camera and delivering an intriguing story. Hoping to bounce back even more to his golden days, his new film Split is the comeback film we’ve all been waiting for from the Indian born filmmaker.
Starring James McAvoy, he plays Kevin Wendell, a man who possesses twenty-four different personalities. All of the characters are diverse in their mannerisms and attitude, though we only get to experience seven of the personalities. One of them is a young child, a grown woman, a fashion designer and a psychopath. Whilst in his more aggressive personalities, he kidnaps three teenage girls and keeps them as prisoners in his unknown location. The three girls and then entrapped within what seems like an unescapable house while having to deal with a man who constantly changes personalities.
Juggling between seven different characters seems like an incredibly hard task, but not in this case as Scottish actor James McAvoy delivers his career best performance and by far one of the best roles you’ll see this year. Balancing between delivering a comedic performance to a damn right creepy one from one second to the next is impeccably done by McAvoy. What seems to be his most challenging and shocking performance has turned out to be probably his most memorable and best performance yet. His dedication and hard work pays off massively as he owns the screen and gets you gripped from the first second of screen time. A performance like this from McAvoy for me, is Awards worthy, I would even go as far to say that this is better than Ryan Goslings role in La La Land, which no doubt will be nominated for an Oscar. If he receives no recognition next year at the awards season, I believe this will propel McAvoy even more as an actor, mainly because he has proved he can demonstrate variety and power in his performance. Anya Taylor-Joy also needs some praise for her great work in this movie. Already a huge fan of her work in The Witch, she is quickly becoming a star in the making. By choosing such challenging and thought-provoking roles at the tender age of 20 proves that she will shine even more at an older wiser age.
Split is by far Shyamalan’s best work since Unbreakable; I almost want to say it’s a very close call with this being my favourite piece of work that he’s produced. The premise coming across as quite simple, he manages to deliver a script that turns the whole story on its head. Twists and turns galore throughout the film have you guessing what on earth is going to happen. Predictability is thrown out of the window on numerous occasions, and this is a strong indicator of a brilliant thriller. Almost rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Shyamalan has been reborn and cements his place back as one of the best thriller writer and directors of our time. Hoping he learnt his lessons from his atrocious years of 2005-2013, we look set to see more great work from this director.
Split is almost faultless, for me it stutters just a little right towards the end, but it doesn’t ruin the film. To end of film like this was always going to be hard and kudos to Shyamalan for delivering a respectable ending that leaves so many doors open for the characters and the storyline itself. It’s a film you will think about for weeks to come, if it’s not for McAvoy’s insanely good performance, its Shyamalan’s great camera work that glues your eyes to the screen. I simply couldn’t look away, I was in awe of the film, and it’s easily become one of my favourites this year. If there’s ever a thriller you need to see on the big screen, Split is 100% the one. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Read my review for Shyamalan’s last movie The Visit Review
And don’t forget to catch up on what we thought of the films in 2016: