Split (2016)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

What if someone kidnapped you? That’d be scary, right? Well, what if the person who kidnapped you also had Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, meaning every time you spoke to them, you were talking to someone different? That’d be downright terrifying, wouldn’t it? M Night Shyamalan certainly thought so, and thus made the subject of today’s review, Split.

A contained thriller revolving around three young women, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula, who get kidnapped by a man with DID, James McAvoy, Split is a movie I’ve heard nothing but good things about. People have told me it’s Shyamalan’s best work in years; that it is one of James McAvoy’s greatest performances ever. And, having seen it for myself, I can tell you that those claims aren’t wholly without substance.

The film is definitely effective in everything it wants to do. When it wants to be scary, its scary. When it wants to be funny, its funny. And much of the movie’s success is due to some very well-constructed scenes, and an absolutely astounding performance by James McAvoy. He has to play so many different characters in this movie, and he really pulls it off. Even though his face looks exactly the same every time he switches personalities, everything else about him, his posture, his mannerisms, his speech patterns, change. You really feel like you’re watching a different person, and that’s impressive. I think it’s a shame he didn’t get nominated this year, but, ah well. Can’t have everything.

But as effective and well-acted as the picture might be, I did still have problems with it. For starters, the dialogue is terrible. Shyamalan, who penned the screenplay, has been lampooned in the past for writing wooden, on-the-nose exchanges, which just don’t sound interesting or natural. Nowhere is this sentiment more true, and obvious, than in Split. Yes, the acting is good, but there were points in this film where I literally winced at how awkward sounding some of the sentences were. On top of this, the movie doesn’t really go out of its way to get you to care about the girls. Yes, you feel sorry that they’re in this bad situation. But you don’t really get to know their personalities or interests. As such, you don’t really feel attached to them. This is especially apparent with Jessica Sula’s character, who’s given the least amount to say. I knew nothing about who she was, or what she liked. I didn’t even know her name. I literally just thought of her as “the third girl,” and needed to look up who she was after the fact. That’s not good. As a filmmaker, you need to get the audience to care about your characters, and this film didn’t do that.

Still, I did enjoy Split overall, and would recommend it to you. If you’re a fan of Shyamalan, McAvoy, or contained thrillers, you’ll probably be engaged for the entire runtime.

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