For a man who was termed the next Spielberg, things sure did not go anywhere as expected. Manoj Night Shyamalan was regarded as one of the most promising of talents a decade ago and that was before the string of absolute misfires. As the years went by, the movies just kept crashing bigger and harder.
But since the movie Split released wide last month, all you hear are claims of how director Shyamalan is back. So it is indeed a curiosity factor at play here as folks walk in to check if the man did get the groove back after duds like The Last Airbender and After Earth.
Thankfully, fans can let out a sigh of relief as we see Shyamalan, not exactly bang on the buck, at least making an effort to get back on the right path. With a limited budget, the man has been forced to get back to the basics with a more indie style of approach and that seem to be working wonders. For, Split is a pretty neat B-grade thriller that thankfully has the services of a remarkable performance to fall back on in keeping the viewers engaged.
Armed with a straighforward plot line but revolving around complex and complicated characters, Shyamalan digs deep into the roots. And once again, it is back to the popular setting for every other low budget horror attempts out there – the ‘escape room’ drama. This time, three young girls are kidnapped by a strange man and taken down to some secret bunker like location.
We soon learn that the abductor Barry (James McAvoy) is suffering from a personality disorder as he takes on different personalities right before them. In fact all of twenty three different personalities is supposed to be ‘existing ‘ within this man, or so we hear because we rarely get to see them all. This is because the unstable negative forces have taken over Barry’s body, which is specifically that of Dennis (the pervert with OCD) and Patricia (a strict authoritative lady) using the assistance of yet another personality named Hedwig ( that of a nine year old).
With the introduction of Barry’s psychiatrist into the narration, we get to learn more about Barry and his dissociative identity disorder (DID) , including the capabilities and symptoms.
Meanwhile the girls have to try to find a way about because their abductor is getting weirder by the minute and it does sound anything but reassuring when he tells them that the girls are going to be the sacred food for the twenty fourth persona referred to as ‘THE BEAST’.
Are there twenty three personalities to begin with? OR is Barry pulling a fast one? Does this ‘Beast’ that they claim to serve, even exists? Will the girls survive to tell the tale?
The film works largely due to the extra ordinary performance from lead man James McAvoy who deserves to be showcased in much better roles than just being strapped to a wheelchair for every other Xmen adventure. And Spit gives us multiple reasons. He is a treat to watch especially in sequences when the personalities switches and McAvoy handles it smoothly with no jitters.
And even though it is mainly a one man show, the other performers too shine. Anya Taylor-Joy (the Witch) manages to impress in her role as Casey , the introvert outcast girl, who has to dig deep into her troubled past to battle the enemy and get out this horror situation. And of course Betty Buckley as Dr.Flethcher, because this is the assuring one who helps us viewers to make any sense of this man and his condition.
And on the strength of this strong performance from lead man, director Shyamalan gets to experiment and get his hits and misses to come up with an effective if not glorious thriller that keep you guessing.
The film does explore the subject of child abuse and survivors of the same giving the film more depth than the average flick of this genre. It interestingly tries to bring our attention to how each will form their own mechanisms to cope with the problem and battle it out with the ‘beasts’ in their own personal manner. But the demands of the genre does not let the filmmaker deeply explore these territories.
And if you are expecting for some elaborate twist, do not go in expecting that. And yet be assured Shyamalan has a final trick up his sleeve for his fans that will leave you forced to look at the movie from another angle than the one you were subjected to. I surely do not want to be the one to spoil it for you, but it does warrant another discussion board in itself.
In conclusion, SPLIT is a movie that a Shyamalan fan must surely check out because the confident strokes of a skilled craftsman is still pretty evident. And he promises more for the ones who are watching closely. But for the new generation who may not have been wowed by a Sixth Sense or an Unbreakable may just be left scratching the head wondering what all the fuss is about. So expect opinions to be ‘split’ on this one. Just depends on which personality you are asking!
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley
directed by Manoj Night Shyamalan