“Split” is the latest mindbender from M. Night Shyamalan. I disagree with the criticism that he has taken over the past decade (even if you hated “The Happening,” he still deserves respect for crafting “The Sixth Sense”) and I’m so happy that this film has put him back into the good graces of the critics. The Hitchcockian approach to the film utilizes suspense to create tension from start to finish. While the tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife, the film does drag on at a few points and I question how viewers looking for the latest horror thriller may have reacted. Much of the film’s success lies on Shyamalan’s twisted plot and visual prowess, but we cannot discount the importance of James McAvoy’s performance. It is essential that McAvoy establish himself as a villain (we can sympathize with his condition, but we still have to fear him); moreover, we have to be able to distinguish between his portrayal of several different personalities solely through his facial expressions and voice. We even have to be able to tell when one personality is pretending to be another personality. He has always been an underrated dramatic actor and proved himself to mainstream moviegoers with this masterful performance. I won’t spoil anything, but I have to make reference that the film has an unconventional twist. M. Night knows that we expect the unexpected at the end of his films, so he uses a twist that could never be anticipated based on the story that precedes it. I won’t fully know how I feel about “Split” until I see it a second time. It is a riveting thriller with fascinating characters, but I can’t help noting the similarities to “10 Cloverfield Lane” which surpasses this film in its pacing, character development, and intrigue.
[Pictured: McAvoy expertly brings several contrasting personalities to life but the real conundrum is "The Beast," a 24th personality that may or may not exist]