Movie Review: “Split”
Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a loner at her school, but was invited to a popular girl's birthday party at the mall. When Casey's ride did not show, the popular girl's father offers to give her a ride home. However, when the girls get in the car, a strange man (James McAvoy) assaults the girl's father, and abducts the girls (using chloroform so that they fall asleep). When the girls wake up, they find themselves locked in a small room with no windows.
The girls quickly realized that they have been abducted, and immediately panic. However, once the strange man introduces himself, everything begins to get so much stranger. The girls realize that the man suffers from a rare and extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, resulting in his body basically being inhabited by over 20 separate personalities. This makes him unpredictable and it makes his intentions unclear. While the girls seem to be able to reason with some personalities (such as the child-like personality known as "Hedwig"), other personalities are cold, calculated, and have cruel intentions. However, there is one personality—referred to by the others as "The Beast"—that the others claim is extremely violent, extremely dangerous, and is on its way to the surface.
The Pros & Cons
James McAvoy (+10pts)
Dumb Decisions (-3pts)
Plot Twist (+2pts)
Pro: James McAvoy (+10pts)
Before getting into how great I thought James McAvoy was in this movie, I should note that Anya Taylor-Joy gave a standout performance as well. This was a very weird and intriguing movie and Anya Taylor-Joy's performance captured that. She is definitely a talented young actress, evident by her performance in this movie. That being said, James McAvoy's performance in this movie was something truly special.
Based on the trailers for this movie, I was very intrigued to see James McAvoy's performance. Being able to switch back and forth between so many different characters, while making it believable, was definitely no small task. I was nervous that the movie would be filmed such that James McAvoy would film all of the scenes for one character on one day, then on a separate day film a bunch of scenes for another character, and so on. Doing it this way could result in these personalities feeling disconnected. However, I ended up being blown away by James McAvoy's ability to switch back and forth between these characters so fluidly and enjoyed seeing the different personalities communicating with each other. I think James McAvoy in this movie was one of the most captivating and impressive performances that I have ever seen, and think that this movie is worth seeing for James McAvoy alone.
Con: Dumb Decisions (-3pts)
This movie was riddled with dumb characters making dumb decisions. I will admit, there were some "decisions" that I thought were dumb in the moment, but ended up being explained later on in a way that made the earlier decision justified. However, there were many more dumb decisions that were never explained or justified. If you see this movie—which I really believe you should—there will be several moments in this movie where you will be wondering what on earth the characters were doing or thinking. While I think these moments were pretty annoying, they only came from side characters, so I do not think they 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. I also thought Anya Taylor-Joy's character had an interesting story and I enjoyed seeing how that character dealt with the crazy situation that she was in. James McAvoy's character was even more interesting, which must come as no surprise.
I knew before going into the movie that this character suffered from dissociative identity disorder and that he had over 20 personalities within one mind. However, what I did not expect to see explored was that some of the identities wanted to help, while others were absolute evil. I thought this was an interesting thing to watch unfold on screen, as there was basically one body that contained both antagonists and protagonists. Then I began to understand why he took the girls in the first place, and everything got so much more intense, and it made for a really entertaining story to watch unfold.
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 of that element of the story. They maybe could have had a few flashbacks and that would have been fine, 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 of the main story. 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, and I feel like the filmmakers could have gotten their point across in a more effective way.
Pro: Plot Twist (+2pts)
There were two plot twists in this movie. Neither were as shocking as some of M. Night Shyamalan's plot twists in his classic movies, but I did still enjoy these twists. The first was a plot point that some may not consider to be a twist at all. It happened when a certain character tried to stab another.
Again, it may not technically be considered a plot twist, but it definitely changed the entire movie when it happened. Some people may enjoy this, others may not, but I actually liked it a lot. The next plot twist was essentially the last shot of the movie and I absolutely loved it. What was so cool about it was how subtle it was. I feel like it will go over the heads of half of the viewers watching, but those who will get it will most likely be very excited, as I was.
Con: Beginning (-2pts)
This issue was kind of related to flashbacks, because the movie kind of just started immediately. What I mean by that is, the first scene of the film was the girls at the end of the party, as they discussed rides home before heading to the parking lot. There was no setup to these characters. In one sense, I enjoyed that the filmmakers did not waste screen-time by giving us meaningless setup, but when the movie started consistently cutting back to flashbacks, it left me wondering why they did not start the movie by showing what they would eventually show in the flashbacks.
Grade: A- (90pts)
I really enjoyed this movie. It was intense and very interesting. James McAvoy was absolutely outstanding, as he had to capture a very complex and fun character, and he did so like few others could have. This movie would not have worked unless the filmmakers got an actor that could pull of this role, and James McAvoy did so brilliantly.
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. However, fortunately, the climax of this movie, James McAvoy, and the plot twists more than made up for those issues. It was a fun and intense ride that I think is worth seeing, and James McAvoy alone will be enough to make you glad that you did.