Mind over matter
Love him, or hate him, writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan clearly doesn’t give a shit what you think. Backing him up with this cockiness is Hollywood. Clearly, they don’t care what you think either. This man’s been allowed to roll out flicks with consistent confidence. And although after THE SIXTH SENSE (’99) and UNBREAKABLE (’00) there was a bit of a stumble, the man kept at his craft and quite frankly has resurfaced. Ever since teaming with Producer Jason Blum (Blumhouse Studios), it seems Shyamalan reignited himself with 2015’s THE VISIT, a fright flick that turned the tables on sweet seniors courtesy of dementia. Fast forward to 2017 and now presenting us with SPLIT. A flick that takes everyone’s “wisdom” on psychopaths, flips it, and exposes it in an interconnected form of complete chaos. A view I’m sure will probably be torn apart by those in the mental health industry.
SPLIT dives into the mysterious recesses of Kevin (James McAvoy). A man with a fractured, gifted mind. Although Kevin has introduced 23 personalities (each with unique physical attributes) to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one known as “The Beast” who seems to be submerged and set for a hostile takeover and dominate. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Kevin embarks in a war for survival among all of those contained within him (as well as everyone around him) as the walls between his existence and compartments shatter apart.
That said, M. Night is back, baby. Back with a sense of unbreakable material. (No pun) If you would have told me James McAvoy’s best career performance (to date) would have been in an M. Night flick, I would have told you, “Get out of my face with that bullshit!” SPLIT is B-movie appeal with A-movie execution. It’s a straightforward, psychological thrill-ride of emotions that comes full circle. The flick has its dips, a bit too simplistic, and doesn’t present much of a narrative, but clearly stands out for its refreshing take on what it’s like to be uniquely daring. In a world full of remakes, sequels, and overrated blockbusters, it’s fantastic to have an original film that’s layered and leaves you thinking and talking afterwards. Without doubt McAvoy carries the film, but his costar (Taylor-Joy) adds and allows his multi-psyche performance seesaw brilliantly. As a whole, considering its PG-13 rating, the film is harsh, terrifying, and deeply twisted a la Shyamalan. However, balanced with awkward laughs and damn near sympathy as well. It’s a brain-rattling ride of cinematic anxiety.
Shyamalan needs to stick with Jason Blum. Why? Simple. Blum knows where his strengths lie and what it is we love about it. At an almost two-hour run, SPLIT is surprisingly good. A film that runs on both entertaining and freaking you out, it holds strong and no doubt will grip a lot of audiences when it hits theaters. (Friday, January 20th)
Grade: B / Genre: Psychological Thriller, Drama, Horror / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1:56
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
© Universal Pictures 2017