Release Date: January 20, 2017
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Sebastian Arcelus, Ameerah Briggs, Betty Buckley, Izzie Coffey, Nakia Dillard, Dann Fink, Jerome Gallman, Kash Goins, Brad William Henke, Rosemary Howard, Neal Huff, Kate Jacoby, Robert Michael Kelly, Emlyn Morinelli Macfarland, Peter Patrikios, Christopher Lee Philips, Julie Potter, Lyne Renee, Haley Lu Richardson, Robin Rieger, M. Night Shyamalan, Jessica Sula
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 117 minutes
Production Company: Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Budget: $5,000,000 (estimated)
As writer, producer, and director, M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has been known as both a cinematic genius and the worst creator of films in the modern day. Not too many would argue that his recent work has been on par, but his last film The Visit showed he still has some creativity left up his sleeve. It still had problems, not delivering what was promised regarding scares, but managed to give audiences a good reason to not abandon him completely. It was marketed as a horror, thriller film, but had a tone of comedy more than anything else. Split turned out the same, being interesting enough, but holding back on the thrill you seek from what’s advertised.
There’s a large dosage of suspension of disbelief one must take to move from scene to scene at times, but once that hurdle is won you’ll be able to take it all in. That stemming from a parking lot scene of capture, I wondered where all the bystanders were located as a tussle took place. As you’re eager to get to know all twenty-three personalities, you only get to meet a few from the start that don’t stand out too well. There were more laughs and giggles than deep breathes and gasps from what’s to come next. Fortunately, that faded away soon after.
The three-act structure of filmmaking is what most Americans are used to without even realizing it. Some directors, Shyamalan in particular, might shy away from this from time to time; which is fine if the story is cohesive, while also keeping your attention. That’s where the first problem lied within this film. It had all the right ingredients, but came out in the wrong order. This may be from expectation being set before viewing, but that also is the responsibility of the studio when releasing material. For certain characters, it isn’t up to the audience to assume what got an individual to a particular mental place. That needs to be either shown or spoken to through interesting dialogue. Here it’s explained with a giant exposition piece that’s spoken from an outside source. Yes, James McAvoy’s (he has more than one character name) character has a mental disorder, and we’re trying to figure out what it is and why. The decision to paint him as someone that we should feel sorry for is a colossal mistake. He kidnapped three women! Whether he can help it or not doesn’t mean me or anyone else is going to side with him. It was as if the plot was to save him instead of stop him, which I had a problem with.
Even though you may not feel sorry for his condition, you’ll be lying if you said you wouldn’t remember it. Early on in the film the different roles ranged from a nine-year-old boy to a conservative grandmother figure. Early on I wanted to roll my eyes, but towards the end I was disturbed by the range of McAvoy’s acting. In a moments glance he began to shift back in forth between all characters locked inside of him, giving a performance that was compelling, scary, and sad all at the same time. At that moment you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, asking yourself do you kill this man or give him a hug. I can only imagine what the decision would be like for a mother, but when the beast is unleashed there’s only so many options one has.
Only if that beast would’ve emerged sooner. Instead, flashback scenes of one of the captured girls periodically pops up from time to time with no relevance to the main story. Everyone is a product of their environment, and she clearly was, but that revelation had nothing to do with the outcome of the plot. That’s like me going to a job interview to be a manager, and telling the recruiter once when I was 11 some kids pushed me down the slide. Yeah, that sucks, but what in the world does that have to do with anything related to the job I’m applying for now. So, that’s ten minutes wasted in a film that could’ve been condensed.
Even though this wasn’t a homerun, not too many were expecting it to be; probably hoping it would fail. It won’t, and it shouldn’t because the ending may be worth it. While you’re anticipating how it will all conclude, it comes together towards the end in a way that makes you think about life from a different angle. Early on it brought on a number of soft comedic moments, though later bringing forth emotions that you may not have known were there. You’re asked to address morality within yourself. What is right or wrong in in all that you believe in? It touches issues of mental disorders that most ignore, but are so prevalent in society. The icing on the cake is the ending, which stretches your imagination to new heights. Having seen a majority of Shyamalans’s films, I appreciated the closing scene that brought it all together, but for some it may be a turn off due to not knowing the connection from the Easter egg that’s left.