Reputation. Anticipation. Damn, McAvoy is amazing! What will M. Night do? That’s the twist? Um…

There is a certain style of film that this writer prefers to experience in the theater. Over the years, this writer has felt that some films lose their full impact when viewing a screener at home, and once I saw the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan‘s new film, SPLIT, it immediately became one I wanted to experience on the big screen. Shyamalan is a writer/director that I respect on many levels, and even though I have not liked every film he’s made, I appreciate his meticulous devotion to each. And when Hollywood’s long-reigning “Plot Twist Pioneer” (next in line only to Hitchcock) released his latest film, I could not get myself into a seat fast enough to experience SPLIT.

M. Night Shyamalan—screenwriter, director, and producer—has captured the attention of audiences around the world with his original films for almost two decades. His films include The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Village, and The Happening.
Photograph by Danielle Lurie

NO SPOILERS!  At the beginning of SPLIT, the film establishes that two girls offered a birthday party “mercy” invite to the “outsider girl,” Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy of THE WITCH and MORGAN). Unexpectedly, that invite includes having to take her home as well. Yet before they can leave, the girls are abducted by an intense man wearing glasses (James McAvoy), a scene prominently featured in SPLIT’s trailers.

James McAvoy – SPLIT

Our three abductees soon realize they are, in fact, held captive by a man with multiple personalities, each of whom Shyamalan introduces in a very fluid manner.

SPLIT’s aesthetics are crisp and attractive (Yes, our captives are in an aesthetically-pleasing makeshift prison), which made this writer focus on the “captives versus captor” emotional relationship. With only one back story told out of the three girls taken captive, my mind immediately wanted to figure out M. Night’s game. Maybe McAvoy isn’t the antagonist? Will the twist be the protagonist is actually the evil-doer since we were privy to her backstory? With the filmmaker’s penchant for bait-and-switch storytelling, it was as if guessing the twist were more my goal than letting the movie takes its written course.

Let this be said now: James McAvoy is magnetic. He is each personality; McAvoy did not half-ass his commitment to making each personality distinctly different. This writer was in awe of his insanely accurate portrayal of each identity. McAvoy convinced me he was each of them, as he evolved from one identity to another in a single shot. The critic in me saw not one inaccuracy.

James McAvoy as ‘Hedwig” – SPLIT

As a result, we are engulfed in an intense horror/thriller. What is going to happen? Who is going to die? Which identity is the killer? What the hell is the twist?

The film is an engaging adventure. All elements involved will keep you, just that, involved, while continuously guessing the story’s direction. BUT… when the film reaches its conclusion, this writer had more questions than resolutions.

I’m not laughing McAvoy. Stay with me…

As the movie finds its “conclusion,” several questions hang in the balance.

Oddly enough, it is not a conflict of closure as to how SPLIT ended, but rather the confusion as to how this may contribute to re-opening something else entirely. I found myself reflecting on the film I just witnessed and almost immediately discrediting the action that came before it. Did I just witness the first feature film intentionally used as an extended teaser trailer for its own upcoming sequel?

These are my feelings. Regardless if you have come to the same place I have or ended up somewhere else, I would love to hear feedback. If you have not seen this film, I highly suggest you do. This film is so wonderfully executed that, even if you’re as alienated by its final moments as I, you will have enjoyed the cinematic ride that got you there.




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