Split… et cetera

Sheldon Hatlen, Staff Writer

4 and a half stars out of 5

A week after its release, M. Night Shyamalan’s newest thriller, “Split,” has garnered critical praise and is considered the director’s return to form.

Shyamalan started his directorial career in the early 90’s with a drama called, “Praying with Anger.” It wasn’t until his third effort, “The Sixth Sense,” that Shyamalan became a household name and was rumored to become the next Spielberg.

However, the last decade critics have not been kind to the director. With the exception of “Unbreakable” and “Signs,” Shyamalan has not been able to produce anything with much critical success throughout the 2000’s and early 2010’s.

It wasn’t until recently that Shyamalan started to pick up steam again. Teaming up with Jason Blum, owner of the production company Blumhouse, allowed the director to focus more on low-budget passion projects rather than big studio productions.

“Split” will mark the second film Shyamalan has collaborated with Blumhouse Productions. Shyamalan’s film, “The Visit,” was the first time he had teamed up with the production company.

“Split” follows high schooler Casey Cook, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, as she and two other girls are abducted by Kevin Crumb, played by James McAvoy. Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder; a total of 23 personalities reside in this man’s mind.

Throughout the film, Kevin’s 23 identities hint at the possibility of another on the way. Kevin’s doctor, Karen Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley, becomes suspicious of her patient’s activities and starts her own investigation.

After seeing the first promotional ad for the movie, “Split” quickly became one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. Once I was finally able to view the film opening weekend, I felt so relieved to walk out of the theater with my expectations met.

23 personalities is a lot for one actor to commit to, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when some identities were showcased more than others. I would have liked to see those other sides of Kevin shine more throughout the movie, but I understand that choice would compromise the quality of the story. 

There isn’t much else I can say that’s negative about the film. There are times where the pace decelerates, but only because Shyamalan has intentionally reserved it for essential character moments.

Positive aspects of the film would definitely include strong performances from both leads, McAvoy and Taylor-Joy, as well as exceptional direction from Shyamalan. McAvoy’s ability to transform and transition through these 23 identities was incredible to experience on the big screen.

I believe McAvoy is one of today’s most underrated talents, and it’s so refreshing to see a performance so challenging and ambitious. Fortunately for the us as audience members, both the story and performances deliver in this month’s surprise hit, “Split.”

As expected from any Shyamalan film, he leaves his signature twist ending for the audience. If “Split” has proven anything, it is that Shyamalan hasn’t lost his touch and shows no signs of slowing down.

Sheldon Hatlen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]