SPLIT follows the story of three girls who are kidnapped after a birthday party and wake up in a makeshift cell owned by a man none of them have met before.
They soon discover this man has DID, a form of mulitple personality disorder, which means that more than twenty personalities live inside his brain. They call themselves “The Hoard” – and they want the girls as a sacrifice to a dormant, soon-to-be dominant personality known as “The Beast”. So the girls have to fight for their lives.
So far, so generic.
However, through meetings with his therapist, it becomes clear that each personality has different traits that can’t simply be explained through a mental health issue.
If this movie serves anything at all, it’s an amazing showcase for James McAvoy’s range as an actor. He manages to make several ‘personalities’ highly likeable, relatable and sympathetic (like 9-year-old Hedwig) while a moment later taking on another that’s vicious, unrelenting and evil. It’s an incredible line he has to dance and, without someone like him as the lead, this film would have fallen flat in the first ten minutes.
The rest of the cast are really just OK. It’s a minimal cast of just four other key players – all of them women. All of whom at points rose above the typical “damsel in distress” or “mum” tropes, but all ultimately fall victim to them anyway.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays the leading lady with a surprising acceptance to her sudden, trapped state. Turns out there’s a reason there too (though no spoilers!). Anya has been praised as one to watch and you can kind of see why, but a lot of the time she just plays vacant – making her a somewhat difficult character to get behind.
M Night Shyamalan and co shot themselves in the foot with their choice of subject matter and how they were then forced to promote it. To the naked eye, it looks as if someone with severe mental health issues kidnaps women and drama ensues. And people, with good reason, are rightly offended by that.
It takes a good forty minutes of the film before it’s revealed as more than that, but by then they’re going to have a hard time trying to reel back in those offended in the audience. It’s something that resonates through the marketing as well – they couldn’t promote it as anything other than ‘a killer with multiple personalities killing off women’ without giving away what the by this point expected Shyamalan Plot Twist.
I left the film confused over whether or not I enjoyed it. There was certainly enjoyable elements, but the last second twist (no spoilers), threatens to simultaneously ruin a classic in my eyes and I think was the film’s saving grace from me leaving disappointed. Shyamalan’s franchising ladies and gents, and I guess only time will tell if it’s going to be a gamble that pays off.
Split is released in cinemas now