Sunday, April 9, 2017

Split (2017)

Director: Manoj Night Shyamalan
Writer: Manoj Night Shyamalan
DOP: Mike Gioulakis
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

Genre of multiple/split personality disorder films is a tired one with many of it having this aspect as a twist device. So how do you overcome that? By having the central theme explicitly spelled out in the poster itself. Identity is another one which ended up having this many personalities and it worked well as a B-grade film. Split was made with a modest budget of $9 million and it collected $272 million worldwide from the box office acclaiming critical success as well with many declaring that Shyamalan is well and truly back. He took the first baby step with 'The Visit', which I haven't seen and I was curious to see whether the man Time magazine had quite prematurely proclaimed as the new Hitchcock was really back at it. Am glad to say that he just hit it out of the park. He is famous for his twist endings and the twist in this film is that there really isn't one in it if you discount the one which revealed the narrative universe it is set in. I was euphoric for quite a few minutes after that reveal.

It works as a horror thriller with a tour-de-force central performance from James McAvoy. Joaquin Phoenix was initially supposed to take this role and am really glad that McAvoy got it because the box office fate might have been quite different. I was not a big fan of him when I saw him first in the X-Men: First Class film but he has grown on me with films like Days of Future Past, Filth, Atonement and  Trance. You will really dig this film if you, like Tarantino and me, consider Unbreakable as Shyamalan's best film. That was one which came much ahead of its time with the plethora of super- hero films coming almost a decade later.

I do think Split will work very well on re-watch as well as it was quite hard to keep up with many of the different personalities and there wasn't much spoonfeeding going on. Shyamalan is currently working on the sequel to it and I do wonder how they're going to pull it off with the age of a certain actor. He still has plenty of time to leave a body of work to cement his place among the greats.

Rating: 4/5