Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Movie Review: Split - or, the return of M. Night

So, honestly M. Night Shyamalan has not made a good movie since Signs, so imagine my surprise that Split is actually, well….good. Of course, there are plenty of things that still give me pause. It’s pretentious, way too serious tone, exploits women (I will address that later) and has too many characters standing around doing very little. However, on the whole, it is a great creepy thriller and an excellent showcase for James McAvoy playing no less than 7 characters. Anya Taylor-Joy, whose face I can’t quite place plays the ‘heroine’ for lack of a better term who seems to survive the ordeal of being kidnapped with two other teenage girls by McAvoy’s psychotic personalities. Like most horror films, the plot of Split centers around on will they or won’t they escape. Shyamalan uses a confusing space, and even more confusing captor and just enough hope to have the viewer invested in the outcome.

The parts I do have an issue with are mainly annoyances. Why doesn’t anyone ever smile ever in any of his films? Why is are there so many characters that just stand around. The three kidnapped girls were so stock, I couldn’t decide if Shyamalan didn’t know what to do with them or they were just bad actors. Luckily Betty Buckley as McAvoy’s psychiatrist has some acting chops in this film. The part that really bothered me was the exploitation of the girl's innocence vs. trauma that propels one of the story arcs. The point is made well in this article. In flashbacks, we see that one of them has had to endure abuse in all too real scenarios at the hands of a relative. Using this contrivance neither strengthens the character, nor the story and hence is used merely for sympathy. I think it is dangerous to use female victimization so callously, it just re-victimizes the characters, as well as those who may actually have to endure it.

The best part of the film probably comes from the character building. It’s quite horrible the things that have to occur to create a true monster from McAvoy’s character, but that makes the payoff sweeter. I have always thought that M. Night has made only three good films…The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, and now we get a film that returns to those roots and even aligns in the same cinematic universe where those films could occur. The best part is that he doesn’t rely on his trademark twist-ending or big reveal to make the point. The emergence of the villain was not a surprise ending, but a slowly structured build up where we actually buy into a monster like him existing. The most telling sign that the film was good is that I’m actually excited to see the next Shyamalan film, and that’s really saying something!

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother
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