by The Commander
3 (out of 4 stars)
James McAvoy is becoming one of my favorite actors. The wide range of roles that he has undertaken over his last few films have been mind-boggling. From a young, naïve clerk turned assassin in Wanted (2008), an art auctioneer in Trance (2013), and a corrupt, junkie cop in Filth (2013) and Victor Frankenstein (2015) in the lead role. The role that he is most famous for is that of Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class (2011) and subsequent X-MEN films.
Split is the story of a man (James McAvoy) who is a psychotic killer diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities. Although only five of them are shown in the film, McAvoy does a wonderful job at separating each entity. McAvoy moves in and out of character roles as easily as most people change socks.
With a cast of only seven main characters, it is an intelligently written dramatic thriller, which is both suspenseful and wonderfully acted. The plot is simple. Three girls are kidnapped on their way home from a party. They wake up in a room having been kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities (both male and female). They must try to escape before he emerges as the 24th entity, a terrifying killer beast. Hailey Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula play Claire and Marcia, two of the kidnapped girls. Anya Taylor-Joy is wonderful as the female lead Casey, the third girl who is estranged from the others.
Another story, simultaneously evolves, about a psychologist who believes that multiple personality syndrome is a real illness. She publishes reports that certain people who have been convicted of crimes without realizing what they have done is based on this syndrome. The Psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fisher (Betty Buckley) works to unravel the mystery. Writer, Director M. Knight Shyamalan plays a small role in the film as well as her assistant. As these two stories come together it provides for a quick paced ending with unforeseen consequences. There is a background story about Casey which focuses on her father (Sebastian Arcelus) and uncle John (Brad William Henke) which adds to the thriller.
I've been a fan of Shyamalan’s work since The Sixth Sense (1999) but many of his successive films were not on the same par leaving others and myself disappointed. This is the first film in a long time that I have really enjoyed watching. It's on the same level or better as his earlier films.
This is a thriller and horror movie. It is not required to be seen on a large screen format. Watching it on your home theater will suffice just as well. A word of caution. Many of the scenes are violent and disturbing and are not intended for young children so if you've got kids, this is not for them. Enjoy this alone when you can turn down the lights and get ready for some good old fashion terror.