Torn between good ideas and questionable choices, “Split” takes a unique horror idea and delivers a dragging thriller in its place.
The latest from director M. Night Shyamalan, the movie follows three teenage girls as they try to escape from the hands of Kevin (James McAvoy) and his 23 personalities before the arrival of a beastly 24th personality occurs.
One of the biggest issues with “Split” comes from how average the plot itself is. While an interesting premise, the film does little to expand upon the basics. There are a some really unique ideas and concepts that are never fully explored, and the film is constantly weighed down by mediocre dialogue and some poor editing choices. Because of this, the film seems to drag a lot as it takes an unnecessarily long time to go from point A to B, and a weird final act ends up leaving much to be desired. This, combined with a blink-and-you-miss-it twist, makes the movie feel unsatisfying and leaves questions open for a potential sequel.
James McAvoy’s strong performance as Kevin is easily the best part of the film. McAvoy does a good job making each of the character’s personalities seem unique and, to an extent, real. McAvoy does the best with what he has to work with, though this makes it feel that the film never needed someone of his caliber.
On the other hand, the rest of the cast is completely forgettable. Anya Taylor-Joy takes the lead as protagonist Casey, but she often comes across as blank and never seems fully invested in the events of the film or the characters around her. Betty Buckley also stars as Kevin’s psychiatrist, though her and the other two girls, played by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula, seem to be going through the motions more than anything else.
This leads to the other problem “Split” faces, which is its character development. Kevin is by far the most interesting and developed character, but it’s solely due to the varying personalities and there’s never any growth that stems from it. Casey also has some development, but because of its awkward placement throughout the film, it makes it harder to really connect with her and understand her arc. Buckley’s Psychiatrist starts off interesting but never comes to be a character on her own, often serving as an extension of Kevin instead, and the other two girls are never anything more than names to faces.
Visually, the film also comes across as average. Though there are some questionable shots that seemed out of place and some jarring editing choices, nothing really stands out.
Combined, these issues make “Split” hard to recommend. Despite the unique premise, fans of horror or thriller movies won’t find much new to work with. Audiences that are fans of Shyamalan’s previous works or James McAvoy may find something interesting here, but the movie isn’t really worth seeing otherwise.
While not Shyamalan’s worst, “Split” never feels like a true return-to-form for the director and ends up becoming a mixture of interesting ideas with poor execution.