M Night Shyamalan’s latest film Split, is a dark and tense if not sometimes confused thriller.
If anything, you have to admit that James Macavoy’s career is a diverse one. He’s kicked ass and bent bullets alongside Angelina Jolie in “Wanted”, trotted through the snowy paths of Narnia in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, growled endless perverse profanity’s in “Filth” and ran a school for gifted mutants in the recent “X-Men” series to name just a few of his roles. “Split” sees him suitably challenged as the character of Kevin, who in actuality has twenty-three distinct personalities, and not all of them nice.
Those with a greater understanding of psychology may find “Split”‘s narrative choices hard to swallow. Many have already taken issue with “Split” being another film that demonises people with D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder), but this is nothing new to cinema. Just take a look at “Psycho”, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, or even at the literary figures of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If standing on somewhat shaky political ground, “Split” utilises its subject effectively for narrative tension when a suspension of disbelief is taken into account.
Macavoy clearly relishes in the chance to showcase his range. Every performance is surprisingly unique, though all with a creepy edge. The film doesn’t delve into each of his personalities though we see a wide range, from Kanye West loving nine-year old Hedwig, to sinister housewife Ms. Patricia. Apparently director Shymalan directed each of the personalities separately, and this certainly translates to the screen.
Though Macavoy takes a lot upon his shoulders, the film is carried just as equally by teenage actress Anna Taylor-Joy, who was last seen in 2015’s highly original chiller “The Witch.” Her character, Casey is not your stereo-typical frightened captive and interacts well with each of Kevin’s personalities, attempting to unlock the secrets inside his troubled mind.
The film lurches forward with a fairly uneven tone, some moments comedic, before plunging us into some pretty dark truths. Though it doesn’t get there in a straight line, the film’s final act is genuinely scary and does something clever with the format. A film that will perhaps split (see what I did there?) audiences and critics alike, one thing is certain; this will surely go down as Macavoy’s most terrifying role.