Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours
For many years, M. Night Shyamalan’s directing career has been in continual decline. Many people, myself included, felt his groundbreaking work with The Sixth Sense (1999) was the peak of what he had to offer. Sure, Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) were good movies that had their moments, but from that point onward, the films he made just got worse and worse. Although I have not seen it, 2015’s The Visit seemed to be a return to form for Shyamalan, indicating that his directing was no longer washed up. In Split (2017), we see that Shyamalan has been able to recapture the magic that made his previous films so memorable.
The first thing I noticed in Split was the cinematography. The camera lets the audience see just enough to let them know that something is amiss, often preparing the viewer for an occasional jump scare. Secondly, James McAvoy’s performance was impeccable. Taking on the role of a man with multiple personalities, he was able to give each one a unique feel through his expressions and language alone. Finally, the concept that people with multiple personalities are somehow super-powered instead of disabled was an interesting take on the almost cliché mental disorder.
I do have to admit that the “twist” ending (of which we have come to expect from Shyamalan) was a little spoiled for me from some articles I had read beforehand. Of course, this twist was also why I decided to watch a film from a director I used to think was past his prime. Were it not for the childhood trauma that seems to be a cover-all in today’s society, the character development with the main female protagonist was well done. Either way, while the revelation involving her character wasn’t necessarily surprising, it was a great turn of events in the final moments of this engaging film.
A fantastic film that shows Shyamalan still has what it takes to make great movies, I give Split 4.5 stars out of 5.