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My first M. Night Shyamalan review. Will it be in mockery or adoration?
James McAvoy in Split plays a man who suffers from an extreme case of multiple personality disorder who has kidnapped three girls for sinister purposes.
I’ve avoided most of Shyamalan’s filmography past Signs. My first experience with him was through The Lady in the Water which I thought I might understand when I grew up. I didn’t.
After Unbreakable his movies have swayed between valiant failures and easy internet review money.
Maybe with this weird flick he can stop the laughter.
Our leads are three teenage girls. They do an OK job. The main girl has a stoic attitude which all seems to make sense in the end. Almost.
All three are outshined by McAvoy. Playing about 8 different characters, he does a great job in giving them all a life. Even in the film’s silliest assertions, he manages to make it work through sheer force of will.
I say silly as this premise, like much of Shyamalan’s back catalogue relies on some weird stuff. Kevin, the original personality of McAvoy’s character has 23 alter egos and one of the main conceits is that the physicality of these “people” differ between one another. Yeah, it’s that kind of film.
I kind of like the B movie nature of this and Night’s commitment to treating it all seriously.
I also like some of his typical directing style. The camera feels a little out of whack in the best and worst possible ways.
The script is well paced or the most part and the tension and humour, if not the horror is totally palpable. The let-down is in the dialogue. Shyamalan never quite knows how to get information out in a way that feels natural. There’s no “What?! No!” moment, but there’s a certain tightness that I’m sure a redraft or two could have saved.
I’m happy for ol’ M. Night. He seems like a good guy and I feel he’s always had potential. He’s been on a bit of a journey from gifted youngster to slightly pretentious pariah to pretty decent artist, wiser and little more humble. Like a great rockstar story.
What’s annoying is the fact that McAvoy was not allowed to use his Scottish accent amongst the many he puts on here!
Recommended Scenario: If you want some pretty good cheap thrills.