After being kidnapped, three teenage girls soon discover they are not dealing with just one man, but also his multiple personalities. While he exhibits maniacal behavior, they attempt to reach out to his humanity in hopes one of his personalities will help them. Split departs from anything writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has done before, bringing an honestly thrilling story to life, with one of his best twists since The Sixth Sense.
MINI SPOILER WARNING INSIDE
Outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) attends a birthday party for her frenemy Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), a pity invitation obviously. After accepting a ride home with Claire’s father, as well as her best friend Marcia (Jessica Sula), Casey and the two girls are attacked and kidnapped. They wake up locked in a basement by a man named Dennis (James McAvoy). However they soon find out that this man exhibits two other personalities, a woman named Patricia and a young boy named Hedwig.
While Claire and Marcia are terrified and ready to fight, Casey seems more reserved. She wants to dissect exactly what’s going on and perhaps speak with Hedwig, who seems fond of her, to gain more insight. It is soon discovered that the mans real name is Kevin and he has 23 unique personalities. Patricia and Dennis are the strongest and waiting on the arrival of the 24th personality, named “The Beast”. Time is running out for the girls to find an escape and their only hope is figuring out which personality could help them before it’s too late.
The film itself examines the concept of dissociative identity disorder. While the science explained isn’t something we’re all familiar with, it definitely intrigues you as a viewer to learn more about this complex disorder. James McAvoy takes on a tremendous amount of work having to develop so many unique personalities, in some instances having to switch between them within the same scene. It’s an impressive feat to take on and even more disturbing and sad that people live with this.
Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), who portrays Casey in this film, deserves tremendous praise for her performance. Not only does she deal with the stresses placed on her character during her imprisonment, but also the complexity of a character that has a deeply troubling past.
Despite the dark tone of the film, there are moments of levity and some humor that feels well-balanced. At some times things may come off a little silly when it means to be serious, but not in a way that negates the prouder moments of the movie.
Pacing does start to fade off at a certain point and when we reach the third act, you sort of find yourself questioning exactly where this film is going. There doesn’t seem to be an exact path you can find narrative-wise to get an idea of its purpose. Are we experiencing reality or something supernatural? What exactly is it suppose to leave the viewer with?
It’s an enjoyable film, but you’re left with a multitude of questions… until the final scene. A scene that left many in the audience confused, excited, and eager for the next chapter.
Split is released on January 20th.
In the final scene, the camera carries through a diner, its patrons watching the news. They’re broadcasting a message regarding the events of the film and this mysterious “Kevin” character with multiple personalities. It is during this moment when the camera pans to Bruce Willis, seemingly reprising his role of David Dunn from Unbreakable, as he references another character from that film.
It’s been 17 years since that films release and it would appear that Split is a sequel, or at least in the same realm as its predecessor. Split is not just a simple thriller film, it’s the expansion of a superhero universe.
UPDATE: In April of 2017, M. Night Shyamalan announced the third film, titled Glass, will be released on January 18th, 2019.