Movie Review: “Split”
Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a loner at her school but is invited to a popular girls birthday party at the mall. When Casey's ride doesn't show, the popular girl's father offers to give her a ride home. When the girls get in the car, a strange man (James McAvoy) assaults the girl's father, and abducts the girls. When the girls wake up, they find themselves locked in a small room with no windows. When the strange man introduces himself, everything begins to get so much stranger as the girls realize that the man suffers from a rare and extreme case of dissociative identity disorder in which his body is inhabited by over 20 separate personalities. This makes him unpredictable and it makes his intentions unclear.
The Pros & Cons
James McAvoy (+10pts)
Dumb Decisions (-3pts)
Plot Twist (+2pts)
Pro: James McAvoy (+10pts)
Before getting into how great I think James McAvoy was in this movie, I should note that Anya Taylor-Joy gave another standout performance in here. This was a very weird and intriguing movie and Anya Taylor-Joy's performance captured that. At only 20 years old, she is an actress to keep an eye on.
Based on the trailers to this film, I was very intrigued to see James McAvoy's performance. To switch back and forth between so many different characters and make it believable is no small task. I was nervous that the movie would be filmed in a way that James could film all the scenes of one character, then on a separate day film a bunch of scenes as another character and so on. However! I was not disappointed when I saw James McAvoy switching back and forth between these characters and to see them communicating with each other. Every time his character changed, I completely believed it (sometimes without him even needing to speak). I think James McAvoy in this movie is some one of the best performances I have seen. This movie does not work without an actor that can pull off this extremely challenging role, but James McAvoy nails it. See this movie for his performance if for no other reason.
Con: Dumb Decisions (-3pts)
This movie is riddled with dumb characters making dumb decisions. I will admit, there were some "decisions" that I thought were dumb in the moment but where explained later on in a way that satisfied me. However, there were many more dumb decisions that could not be explained or justified. If you see this movie (which I really believe you should) there will be several moments in this movie where you are thinking or saying things such as "what are you doing?!" or "seriously?". While I think these moments were pretty annoying, they only came from side characters so did not hurt the film by much.
Pro: Plot (+10pts)
I really enjoyed the plot for this movie. It was not a movie that kept me guessing, but it definitely kept me intrigued and entertained. There were some really weird, funny, intense and compelling moments throughout the movie. I thought Anya Taylor-Joy's character had an interesting story and I enjoyed seeing how that character dealt with this situation. James McAvoy's character was even more interesting, which must come as no surprise. I knew going into the movie that this character suffers from dissociative identity disorder and has over 20 personalities, but what I didn't expect to see explored was that some of the identities wanted to help, the others were absolute evil. I thought this was an interesting thing to watch unfold on screen. Then you start to understand why he took the girls and everything gets so much more intense.
Con: Flashbacks (-2pts)
While I liked Anya Taylor-Joy's character, the filmmakers used flashbacks to tell her origin and I was not a fan! There were really 3 flashbacks needed, but the movie decided to throw in several unnecessary flashback sequences that ended up getting kind of annoying. I just wanted to get back to the events in present day. By the last couple of sequences, I understood why these scenes were in the movie but before then they just felt like a waste of screen time.
Pro: Plot Twist (+2pts)
There were kind of two plot twists in this movie, but neither were as shocking as some of M. Night Shyamalan's plot twists in his classic movies. That being said, I did still enjoy these twists (one of them way more than the other). The first one is a plot point that some may not consider to be a twist. It happens when a certain character tries to stab another. Again, it may not technically be considered a plot twist, but I thought it changed the movie as far as how much of it is set in reality. Some people may enjoy this, others may not but I was okay with it. The next plot twist is essentially the last shot of the film and I absolutely loved it. What was so cool about it was how subtle it was. I feel like it will go over half of the audiences heads, but those who get it will most likely be very excited as I was.
Con: Beginning (-2pts)
This con kind of ties in with flashbacks because the movie kind of just starts immediately. What I mean by that is, the first scene of the film is the girls at the end of the party as they discuss rides home and head to the parking lot. There was no setup to these characters. In one sense, I enjoy that the movie did not waste time giving us meaningless setup, but when the movie starts consistently cutting back to flashbacks, it left me wondering why they didn't start the movie with the "flashback" sequences. Also I could have used a little bit of setup even if it was simply starting the movie earlier in the party because they way they started this movie felt like I had come into the theater five minutes late.
Grade: A- (90pts)
I really enjoyed this movie. It was intense and very interesting. James McAvoy was absolutely outstanding as he had to capture such a complex and fun character. I think this movie does not work unless you have an actor that can pull of this role as brilliantly as McAvoy did and I'm not sure too many actors could have done it this well.
The concept of dissociative identity disorder was a driving force in this movie and I thought it was explored in an interesting way. I only really had a couple of small issues with the movie but the climax of this movie, and the plot twist at the end, way more than made up for those issues. It was a fun and intense ride that is worth seeing. On top of that, you should see this movie for James McAvoy alone.