Double-take film review: Shyamalan’s Split

James McAvoy shines in role as man with dissociative identity disorder.
By Caleb Holldorf

Multiple identities can serve as a deadly weapon of deception, which in Split, proves evident for both Kevin Wendell Krumb and his inner/outer adversaries. In fact, Split shines a whole different light on the clichéd term of being your own worst enemy, as well as what the true potential of the mind can be.

For this psycho thriller, suspense is established in the forefront of the film. In my opinion, this is helpful for M. Night Shyamalan, given the bipolarity of his received directorial career so many movie goers are aware of.

After a small party, a father with the company of his daughter and her two classmates prepare to go home. The girls climb into the sedan, wait for the father to finish packing the trunk, and a silent stranger nonchalantly takes the driver’s seat.

Casey (one of the film’s three main characters) seems to have already sensed the peril that’s sure to ensue, her wide-eyed face is terrified, yet the two female’s sitting in the back fail to catch on via stating the obvious, “Sir, I think you have the wrong car.”

Proceeding to spray the girls with a sort of knockout spray, Dennis, the first identity the viewer is introduced to, takes them to his secluded underground lair, where much of the film is set.

Kevin Wendell Krumb is someone who has what is defined as dissociative identity disorder. Kevin possesses 23 identities with their own psychological and physiological characteristics. The movie revolves around the idea that a twenty-fourth underlying personality is coming to surface, and this serves as the film’s main driving force.

Seeing someone who has the capacity to achieve multiple phenomena when they see it fit to pull those specific abilities out due to the circumstances of a situation, was a first for me. It was mind blowing how bodily chemistry could be altered based on which identity the mind took on.

The charisma of James McAvoy portraying the story’s primary catalyst does not for a moment disappoint, not in the slightest. His acting was done exceptionally well and this film reminds us just what his acting talent is capable of.

In taking on the role of multiple identities, McAvoy performs the little quirks that go into each, making each identity unique to near perfection. For the identity of Hedwig, his scattered braininess epitomizes that of a 9 year-old, especially when he squats and waddles like a duck. Patricia, a holy mother with a happy fake smile sends eerie tingles down the spine of the viewer. The list goes on and the identities are equally flavorful one after the other.

The assisted young talent from co-actress Anya Taylor-Joy (playing the role of Casey) should also be noted, for her character’s dark past can be felt simply through her hopeless eyes.
There is a puzzle for the viewer to figure out and, with pieces being scattered throughout, the last one is picked up at the end. Split pulls the viewer in with small sparks of awe that ignite a curiosity in the viewer, refusing to go away, even when the credit screen roles.

For the best result of your viewing pleasure, I suggest going into the movie with no expectations. Not saying you’ll be let down if you don’t, but if you’ve seen M. Night Shyamalan’s previous films (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable, to name a few), his resume isn’t exactly stacked with the ammunition that is needed to have a sure fire satisfying movie experience. But I think this film is worth the watch, for it is thought provoking and sticks with you for a couple days.

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Second take: Shyamalan returns to former glory
By Rachael Jaeger

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

So I have a confession.

M. Night Shyamalan is my favorite movie director and has been for a long time. But after The Sixth Sense, he declined in my interest like he did many others. His films just have not lived up to their full potential—until now.

I know many were bothered with Signs, mostly because of the premise that aliens were supposed to be afraid of water, yet wouldn’t be able to live in Earth’s air. But I did enjoy his use of symbolism, his characters’ developments and the imagination he used throughout it all. To me, the glass of water showed how a simple and coincidental action has the power to resolve life’s complexities and encourage more faith when you believe you have lost it.

I have a few friends who appreciate The Village (emphasis on few). This is where I started to dislike Shyamalan. As an audience, we wait for the monsters to be revealed but then we discover that the monsters are actually residents from the nearby city. The city is located not far from where the cult in the woods thrived.

In The Happening, I actually enjoyed the mystery of not knowing what triggered people to kill each other or themselves. When Shyamalan ended with an image of a flower sprouting, I believed it stirred more imagination for a person to reflect on their own life.

But what I see in Shyamalan, he has attempted to explore the impossible and nothing is what you expect it to be, even if you think you might know. He has overworked that formula to death by throwing in twists that make no sense.

Split contains two distinct storylines that mesh together well. The first shot opens with a scene of a girl standing in the corner and talking on her phone while at a party. Her vehicle has broken down and despite her protests, the father of one of her friends helps her with a ride. But as they settle into the vehicle, an unknown person who approaches from the camera side, knocks the father unconscious.

From there, we wonder who the kidnapper is.

Throughout the movie, Shyamalan stuns his audience by slowly revealing plot twists through use of images and flashbacks instead of springing surprises on us out of nowhere. For instance, Casey’s mind takes us back in time to when her uncle talks to her and her dad about having buck fever. From there, a theme develops of vulnerability and the hunted and its prey.

Shyamalan also plays with the idea of how certain, but specific, situations in your childhood affect who you become as you transition to other stages in your life. If adults have evoked guilt in you from a young age, even if you have a sense of what they are doing is wrong, you have a tendency to hide yourself.

The movie ended with a note on how the broken are strong, which is a really strong resonating theme once you have watched the entire film, especially when you discover a deeper side to the kidnapper’s story. You are conflicted with whether you should feel sorry for him or you want him dead.

Deep inside I had a feverish hope burning inside of me that Shyamalan would make a comeback. This movie is it.

His ideas were sound in his previous films, but after The Sixth Sense, it felt like he tried too hard to maintain the same success in his sequential movies, but failed miserably. Split is the movie where I saw he took his time to think through how he wanted his movie angled to convey his themes and emotions. If you have not seen it yet, I would highly recommend that you go as soon as you can, especially if you love thrillers.

During the first two weekends of its showing, Split has scored $101 million internationally on a $9 million budget, according to Terri Schwartz, an Entertainment Editor at IGN. Shyamalan had planned to fit Split as part of Unbreakable when it released Nov. 14, 2000, but he believed that James McAvoy’s character wouldn’t fit because he was playing too many characters.

“I never know what’s going to happen when I get in the room alone and start writing. So that’s the only reason it can’t be a promise. I may fail myself, and I don’t get inspired by doing sequels. What I like is the unknown, when I don’t know what I’m writing,” Shyamalan told Birth.Movies.Death on Jan. 28.

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