Verdict: A fascinating thriller marking M. Night Shyamalan's comeback.
There are certain things you expect or hope for from a M. Night Shyamalan movie. The director has the audience and the critics still going gaga over The Sixth Sense (1999). His distinct style includes a nail-biting thriller with a twist you don't see coming. Over the years, the director has also been criticised for repeating the same formula making even the most novel twist, not impressive enough. A good thriller should send chills down your spine as the story unravels and keep you hooked to the story as the suspense unveils. Split is just that with an original story penned by Shyamalan.
Three girls Claire (Hayley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anna Taylor-Joy) are abducted by Denise who is one of the 23 personalities harbored inside Kevin Wendall Crumb (James McAvoy). Denise locks them up in a basement in an unknown location. The intentions behind the abduction are unclear and the girls are fed and taken care of without any possibility of them ever returning home. Claire and Marcia make numerous attempts to escape and as a result are separated from Casey who is the only one who tries to take into account the full extent of the trouble they are in. Each of Kevin's personalities are slowly revealed through his therapy sessions with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who is trying to prove to the world that the personalities present in a person suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder have the ability to shape and transform the body with the power of their mind. Barry who is yet another personality inside Kevin, takes majority of the control and usually decides the personality to take charge. Barry is overthrown by Hedwig (another one of the 23) on the request of Miss Patricia (yet another one of the 23) as they await for `The Beast' who is supposedly the 24th unrevealed personality to take control.
Movies with such a premise instantly grab your attention as the extent of effects of Dissociative Identity Disorder is still under debate. The possibility of a number of personalities inside a human being is intriguing enough but comes with a sad fact that it is a traumatic experience that brings forth these personalities to protect the host. The truth behind the effects of this disorder are obviously stretched to help the plot but the trauma behind it is not.
James McAvoy as Kevin steals the show as he phases from one personality to the next making it look effortless. Each personality has its own quirks like Denise with OCD and a penchant for watching girls dance; Miss Patricia is the voice of reason with her love for flowers; Hedwig is a nine-year-old with a lisp and a sinister need for revenge; Barry is the harmless fashion designer and Jade as the only one who is diabetic. On the other hand, Casey who is the only abductee whose character is developed keeps the acting to minimal to contrast with Kevin's dramatic presence. Anya Taylor-Joe and Izzie Coffee shine as the present-day Casey and five-year-old Casey respectively. Casey is shown to have been abused as a child and as the story flits between present day events and Casey's past revealing her motivation behind her actions during the course of the movie.
Hayley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula do a great job of portraying two girls who take matters into their own hands while planning a way to escape. Betty Buckley as the highly sympathetic therapist of Kevin impresses too trying to keep up with Kevin's varying personalities.
M. Night Shyamalan delivers an intriguing tale with some fine cinematography when it comes to the contrast between the characters and each of Kevin's personality. He has truly made his comeback with this movie and although it might not be another The Sixth Sense, the director seems to be heading in the right direction. The music by West Dylan Thordson with some creepy background score deliver the right amount of chills at the right time. We only wish we could have seen all 23 personalities in action as some are only alluded to while others not mentioned at all.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
M. Night Shyamalan has brought his A-game back, which is only a relief for the fans of his work and the genre. James McAvoy takes up yet another creepy character and delivers with all the personalities. An old favorite is going to make a cameo with a blink-and-miss appearance by Shyamalan. Watch out!