*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS*
When the trailers for M. Night Shyamalan’s Split hit the web, I had no idea what I was in for. While Shyamalan’s first collaboration with Jason Blum, The Visit, felt like a true return to form for me, I was still a tad weary of the film. But the more I heard, the more I became intrigued. And by release date, I was there, excited to see what the film was going to entail. By the time the credits rolled, I realized that it had completely blown my expectations out of the water.
Split follows Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), a shy introverted teenager who is kidnapped along with two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula) by a strange man. This man, Kevin (James McAvoy), suffers from dissociation identity disorder and has 24 distinct personalities, including the superhuman cannibalistic psychopath, The Beast.
The aspect about Split that got the most people talking happens in the last frame of the movie, where it reveals that it takes place in the same universe as Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. This is where we learn that Split isn’t just a psychological thriller, it’s also a super-villain origin story and a pretty effective one at that.
What makes comic-book movies like The Dark Knight, Logan, and Guardians Of The Galaxy so special is that while they are superhero movies, they feel like they’re another genre too. That’s the case with Split, as I looked back on the film I realized all the elements it had in common with Unbreakable and other superhero films. But it’s meant to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. There’s no fist-fights or explosions. It’s just pure suspense and even dread.
McAvoy’s performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb is some of the best acting I’ve seen in a film like this. He convincingly pulls off a flamboyant fashion designer, a hyper-active 9 year old, a stern middle-aged woman, a Anglophobe, and a primal-like ‘beast.’ This is impressive all on its own. My only gripe is that I wish we were able to see more of his identities.
Split isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s a pretty great film overall. It features an impressive lead performance, suspenseful directing, a haunting atmosphere, and a great twist. If you haven’t watched this one yet, I’d highly recommend seeing it before Glass hits theaters this weekend.