Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Movie Review- Split

Dammit! I hate it when people waste food. He could've put it in the trunk, ya know!

"The broken are the more evolved."

I can honestly say that some of M. Night Shyamalan's films have been misunderstood and/or underrated. Now, I'm talking about the mainstream ones, not the low-budget, independent stuff he did before 1999's The Sixth Sense. Critics aside, I never hear any bad-mouthing for Unbreakable, Signs, or even The Village. But films like Lady in the Water and After Earth have gotten a bum rap. I understood the intentions with those films and appreciated them for what they were in all of their imperfections (even though many did not). And I think we can all agree that The Happening and The Last Airbender were horrible in every regard. I also believe that with the brilliance of The Sixth Sense, everyone's expectations with each of Shyamalan's newest pictures was kept pretty high for awhile. Sort of like how Pulp Fiction is the basis for how every Quentin Tarantino film is judged. By now I think that most of our M. Night movie presumptions have stayed at a very low level. So hopefully the only way is up (again).

Split

Based sorely on some interesting trailers and good word of mouth, I decided to check out Shyamalan's newest attempt at thriller/horror. Split is a confusing film to label. The premise and performances give off a grandiose display, yet the story itself tries to sound bigger than it is. Now I really enjoyed this film and have plenty of good to say about it, but my first impression has been a bit tainted because of some loose lips and insecure bloggers. When I heard that Split was in some way connected to one of M. Nights's previous (and one of my favorites of his) movies, I must admit that my desire to see it rose fairly high, but I also kept looking for those connections while viewing it. So I'll never know how vastly different my opinion could've been if the surprise had stayed that way until it happened naturally. Having said that, this movie plays well on its own as a psychological thriller that builds in suspense with every scene.

Above everything else, Split is a performance piece. I trust that the director kept the casting number to a low amount so that its few players had plenty of time to shine, especially James McAvoy (Wanted). I already respected his acting talents, but giving him over a dozen distinctive personalities to frolic through, would've broken a weaker performer. McAvoy owns this film from beginning to end. Every personality that he effortlessly transfers through, is so good that at times I forgot I was watching the same guy. Two others get their fair share of scenes as well, just not as many costume changes. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) as the film's protagonist focal point, is tragic in the sense that you learn about her hard life and see the terror in her eyes as she sees hopelessness surrounding her. Every time she quietly cried, I just wanted to give her a cup of hot cocoa and a hug. Betty Buckley (Carrie) as McAvoy's psychiatrist, is potent in her suspicions and careful treatment of him, even though her ultimate destiny seems inevitable. McAvoy's interactions with both of these very different actresses keep the tension so high at times that the screen itself could've split.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Split

The Good- Casey's uncomfortable flashbacks lead to somewhat of a payoff, funny little Hedwig, Patricia's condescending stares, the Beast's followers have a discussion in the mirror, and that familiar music near the end gave me familiar goosebumps.

The Bad- It's kinda obvious that when two of the three captives don't get a back story and flashbacks, that their days are numbered.

The Ugly- It is honestly hard to tell if that twist ending belonged in here or not. But I do find some amusement in the fact that many audience members were confused by it. "What the hell does B***e W****s have to do with this?!"

Final Thoughts

Split is like a combination of Red Dragon and 10 Cloverfield Lane, but with that Shyamalan twist. There's even a good bit of humor from time to time, that cuts into the intensity. Catch up on some of M. Night's work from the early 2000's, and definitely, go see this ferocious display of acting expertise. And try to stay away from the spoilers. Because once you know, it's an Unbreakable thought.
Rating-7.5 out of 10


Split (2016)

PG-13 | 1h 57min | Horror, Thriller | 20 January 2017 (USA)

Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities and must try and escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson 

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