2017-01-20

SPLIT

by Justin Johnson

I usually avoid spoilers in my reviews, at least as best as I can and still provide meaningful commentary.  With that said, I am going to spoil Split, spoil the heck out of it.  So if you plan to see this movie, read the rest of this paragraph then skip to my summary and rating.  If you were on the fence and want to know more, consider reading on. If you were never interested, definitely read on if for no other reason than you can say you know its plot and still avoided it.  First, I am a huge fan of Shyamalan’s early movies (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs).  So much so, I have attempted to overlook some of his flops (Lady in the Water, The Happening).  Split had me anticipating something in between a flop and a smash hit.  And I’d say I was not far off and have it leaning closer to smash hit.  James McAvoy deserves some awards for his portrayal of a damaged man with severe Dissociative-Identity-Disorder (DID).  Some of the teenage girl moments can be a bit annoying, but they play their part as victims in distress.  Ok, onto the story…

Shyamalan delivers his familiar story plots – early life experiences prepare us for what is to come, and of course attempts a twist ending.  Unfortunately, the buildup and twist is not as powerful as some of Shyamalan’s previous and probably leaves the viewer wanting a bit more.  Shyamalan’s premise in Split is that society may have it wrong, people who have traumatic early life experiences that lead to disorders such as DID might not be the fallouts they appear.  In fact, they may be a higher form of existence. Drawing off real life events where DID sufferers find themselves healed of diseases such as diabetes when taking on a separate personality, or even healed of blindness, Shyamalan asks us to consider if the defense mechanisms that lead to DID might not be preparing us for something greater?  Mr. McAvoy takes us on this journey to see his evolution into “the Beast” a split personality that restructures his very DNA into something greater.  I’ll avoid spoiling anymore, but I will say seeing McAvoy play his personalities is worth the price of admission, even with some of the plot details lacking depth and meaning.

One drawback for me is the typical Hollywood plot device that the next stage of evolution for humans, in this case, DID suffering individuals, will show that we are gods of our own existence.  I wonder why the idea that a creator might be at the helm of what at first seems to be a disorder and turns out to be a defense mechanism turned evolution would not make for as an appealing premise?  That aside, the movie has some interesting ideas to consider.  I always enjoy walking out of a theater thinking through the writer/director’s intent with certain elements of a film.  If you do venture out to see Split this weekend, plan for a slower paced and dialog driven movie that will leave you thinking and considering the implications of the premise while being slightly disappointed that the typical Shyamalan plot twists were not better executed.

4.5 out of 7 – Shyamalan delivers in typical fashion, not as good as earlier suspense thrillers, but not nearly the flop some of his other movies were.  Rated PG13 for some intense suspense and violence and some mild teen nudity.