This review contains mild spoilers
The first thing we find astounding is that all these 24 names of characters belong to James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class) alone. Next is his super chameleonic performance; once a Kevin, then a Dennis, and out of sudden, a bald woman named Patricia. He’s also a Barry, then a Hedwig, and later a character who is told to the utmost, the Beast.
Split is about finding who’s playing who, whom he’s playing on, who’s dominant and who’s weak, as well as learning if these characters are aware of such disruption in their minds. Split is a splendid version of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, as Kevin, the origin, gets split more than enough (read: at least two and approximately sixteen). The premise itself is genius and the plot is carefully tailored in order to keep the suspense last long and create a thumping twist once it’s facing the end. Undoubtedly, the long lost M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) has made a triumphant comeback, proving that his piece is still awaited and his directorial signature is unbreakable.
We learn that the idea behind Kevin’s DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) is to avenge his painful childhood by judging what is right and wrong in a subjective manner. Kevin’s mother was always abusive, causing Kevin to live with a chronic trauma. As a result, Kevin starts developing many identities inside him, with an aim to find the one strongest, the one who can protect him, Dennis, Barry, Patricia, Hedwig, et cetera. However, the one called the Beast remains uncertain and somehow regarded as a fantasy, since we never see him emerge out of Kevin. Only when the ritual day involving an abduction of three young girls comes, the Beast is born.
And here comes a little flaw as we find this abduction is hasty and awkward and brings in a distraction to the thrill. But this is quickly covered when it turns out that one of the girls, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), is a game changer and quite a balance to Hedwig’s sick mind. Hence, Taylor-Joy’s camera face is always intensely horrid yet beautiful, adding more thrill, not only into her unfortunate situation, but also the rest of the girls.
The idea of this abduction is too brief and unreasonable but much helped by intermittent flashback scenes of Casey’s childhood which apparently shows a similarity with Kevin’s. Somehow they connect and understand each other but Kevin is not an easy personality to deal with, especially when he hardly deals with his other identities.
We hardly choose a favorite as McAvoy plays every character so well. He coexists with all of them, jumping in and out like a pro. His performance is dramatic as well as horrifying, no matter who he is, even a 9-year-old Hedwig who is cute and adorable but proves to play a sinister role. It’s when Hedwig takes over Barry’s light and becomes the new dominant, he’s no longer underestimated by the strict-mannered Dennis and Patricia, making him an exit key the girls need. Hedwig is also the one who can creates a nuisance in the group of minds called Horde. He’s loud and expressive, somehow is easily tricked but can be a pain in the ass.
Last but not least to praise is Barry’s session with Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), which is always the most anticipated scene of ours. The conversation is smart and meticulous, bringing the mystery deeper every time Fletcher tries to dig in whom she’s talking with. It’s usually Barry who’s working as a fashion designer at a department store. Unlike Dennis, Patricia, and Hedwig, Barry is open, carefree and caring, someone Fletcher relates most easily with. But after she’s got e-mailed by Barry with an urgent subject, Barry’s behavior slightly changes but easily recognized, arousing Fletcher a curiosity on the one’s taking the lead of Kevin’s mind this time. Little does she know it tends to be whoever.
Director: M.Night Syhamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley
Duration: 117 mins