“Split” continues to prove that Blumhouse brings out the best in M. Night Shyamalan. However, the third act shows signs that Shyamalan is wanting to return to old habits. But, let’s stop for a moment. The film begins with overtures to the director’s previous Philly/Bucks County odysseys into horrific fantasy. From the initial assault, we get an opening credit sequence seemingly designed to evoke Saul Bass’s work for Hitchcock. Quite ballsy for a director that hasn’t tackle a true original in years.
What saves the film from turning into Shyamalan showcasing his film lifts is James McAvoy’s inspired performance. Echoing John Goodman’s amazing early 2016 turn in “10 Cloverfield Lane”, McAvoy finds what works within the concept. Watching McAvoy switch between personalities with little effort is startling. The little quirks of Hedwig trying to stay on topic or Miss Patricia talking about Paprika shows an actor working far above the material. For the first two thirds of the film, this movie becomes an amazing showcase for McAvoy’s abilities.
Anya Taylor-Joy gets equal time to show that Thomasin wasn’t a one-off performance. However, she suffers from a forced need to explain her motivations through rampant flashback syndrome. These flashbacks feel even crueler when you realize what she has to revisit, if she escapes her captivity. Betty Buckley turns a strong supporting turn as McAvoy’s therapist, but even she feels stuck providing clumsy exposition by Skype conference call. After being thoroughly impressed with Shyamalan’s work on “The Visit” and “Wayward Pines”, the finale of this film keeps irking me.
When a director hits it big early, certain bad tics become ingrained. Shyamalan believes that an open audience is as involved in his world, as he is in his mind. Too much is expected of an audience to accept a lack of logic or utter resolution. As I watched the film with an open audience, I took notice of the casual viewers. Shyamalan still has amazing skill at capturing suspense and tension. The guy is a storyteller in a way that we rarely see in modern directors. But, the problem remains. He doesn’t know when to wrap up a story. The lack of any real resolution feels trite and cruel. Especially for poor Casey.
- 1 hr and 57 mins