‘Split’ Movie Review Roundup: Shyamalan Returns, Leaves Critics “Split” Between Good & Dull
M. Night Shyamalan newest thriller Split follows Kevin (James McAvoy) with an identity disorder that leaves him split between many different people, each with his own physical and emotional attributes. While Kevin has disclosed 23 of these personalities to his psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there is one that remains hidden and happens to be the most dominant of them all. Kevin is compelled to abduct three teen girls as he battles within himself.
The film has been well-received overall, earning a 74% on rottentomatoes.com. Shyamalan has developed a reputation for unforeseen twists in his thrillers, beginning with the famous Sixth Sense. While some think the director has begun just planting ridiculous twists to keep up appearances, most found Split to be a great return to the classic Shyamalan hijinks.
SPLIT REVIEW ROUNDUP
“McAvoy is superb in a taxing role. Having to play Kevin’s various sides is a physical role where the Scottish actor proves himself a real chameleon. He fully inhabits each of the characters, sometimes changing accent, other times switching wardrobe, but McAvoy makes it clear they’re all part of the same person and not someone wildly different…Split lags at times when it leans on stereotypical thriller tropes — of course there’s a vent in the ceiling and of course it goes nowhere — but the inevitable reveals (yes, multiple ones) are satisfying mainly because of the performances. For one of the movie’s main themes, Shyamalan digs into the real-world question of whether or not the body chemistry of someone with a personality disorder can change depending on the identity. Yet what resonates more is his more subtle exploration of how people deal differently with trauma and the power of connection. That message — and a captivating McAvoy — will stick with you long past the thrills of a cool twist.”
– Brian Truitt, USA Today
“It’s crucial to note that Split doesn’t build toward a twist ending (not that any decent critic should reveal those bits of ridiculousness)—or, in fact, a proper ending at all. It leaves you hanging in a way that feels swooningly pretentious for this kind of movie. There’s a tiny shiver of something in the final few seconds that doesn’t exactly change what we’ve watched so much as say, “I’m still M. Night Shyamalan, and I’m still crazy!” He’s become his own twist ending. Half your audience (I’m being generous) will gasp; the rest of you will roll your eyes.”
–Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out
“Rest assured, there are plenty of proper twists to follow, none more unexpected than the fact that Shyamalan himself has managed to get his groove back after a slew of increasingly atrocious misfires. To be fair, it’s hard to imagine any writer/director sustaining a career based almost entirely on surprising audiences… Shyamalan has created a tense, frequently outrageous companion piece to one of his earliest and best movies… Shyamalan’s goal is to keep us guessing, and in that respect, Split is a resounding success — even if in others, it could have you rolling your eyes. Still, scaling down to a relatively modest budget and just a handful of locations has forced him to get creative with the script, while a handful of new hires elevate the result in such a way that we’re more inclined to consider the characters’ psychology, even though Shyamalan appears to be making it up to suit his purposes. Ultimately, Split belongs to McAvoy, who has ample scenery to chew, but doesn’t stop there — he practically swallows the camera with his tiger-like teeth.”
–Peter Debruge, Variety
“For all that, Split is still a Shyamalan film, which means there’s joy in its craft and some inspired moments. Dig those in-camera split-screens, the best of the suspenseful incidents, its creator’s willingness to disorient us and his skill at planting odd little details that later mean everything. [Anya] Taylor-Joy‘s role mostly consists of her taking the horror in, eyes wide, face not committing to any one emotion until her character can figure out how to manipulate whichever Kevin is standing before her. She’s silent and pained, a fascinating presence. Through her — and the most inspired turns in Shyamalan’s script — Split finds surprising power in the familiar conceit that horror heroines must have survived great trauma before the movie even begins. Too bad you have to grind through all Kevin’s unedifying chatter to feel it.”
–Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice
“That gives the film a standard horror movie failing — a disconnect, an empathy gap. The suspense doesn’t build as they race towards their fate. There is no pulse-pounding feeling to any “They/she might get away” moment… There’s just enough connection to the current psychological theory to give Split resonance, but too many Shyamalan indulgences and nods to his past to let it stand on its own. And when in the third act he brings it all together and tries to sprint for the finish, all he can manage is to ego trip over his past.”
–Roger Moore, Movie Nation