This past weekend, the wife and I caught M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie. This is going to be a review on that film WITH SPOILERS. This review will be spoiling the ending and important plot points of the movie, “Split.” Do not read this review if you have not seen the movie. The ending is such that you’ll likely enjoy seeing the movie with no spoilers. You’ve been warned!
It seems like the marketing for this movie started in the early fall last year and ever since my wife saw the first trailer, she was very intrigued and really wanted to see it. This desire came more out of an appreciation for James Mcavoy’s acting chops than a trust in Shyamalan’s directing track record. In fact, it’s that track record with such stinkers as “The Last Airbender”, “The Village”, and “The Happening” that has caused me and many casual movie-goers to avoid his films. I’ve heard some say that “The Visit” that came out a little while back about the creepy visit to the grandparents (never saw it) was not terrible but there weren’t any reviews that made me want to go see it.
I’m here to tell you that Shyamalan’s most recent film, “Split,” is really good. No joke. Not kind of good, not average, it is really good! Now, right up front, I will say that this movie isn’t for everyone. The tone of the movie definitely delivers on being a creepy psychological thriller without much of a scare factor. James Mcavoy delivers so well in his performance. You don’t get to see all 23 (24) of his personalities but the 5-7 that he does get to showcase are AMAZING. Truly, he’s a master of his craft. My favorite of his personalities was definitely Hedwig, the 9-year-old boy. He added some awesome comic relief in a movie that I didn’t think could pull off comic relief well at all.
His performance of Dennis pretending to be Barry (a dissociative identity impersonating another disassociative identity!) was truly inspired. How many others actors could actually pull that off?
I was starting to have some big question marks with the story when Mcavoy’s therapist explained the abilities her DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) patients could possess. Even more question marks were raised when Mcavoy turns into “the beast.” Although, I will say that I was grateful that restraint was shown in this transformation. If he grew hair, claws, and went throw some kind of werewolf transformation I would’ve checked out.
However… with the frame of reference provided at the very end of the movie, his abilities made perfect sense. Here is the bomb… it’s revealed at the end of the movie that Split is a story told within a shared Shyamalan universe. Bruce Willis is seen at a bar at the end of the movie, watching the news story about Mcavoy’s villain and mentioning a “Mr. Glass.” If that ending confused you at all, here’s what’s going on.
Shyamalan directed a movie in 2000 that was an understated, realistic superhero movie that starred Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. That movie was “Unbreakable.” This movie had much critical acclaim and was generally a well-accepted film by general audiences. The ending of “Split” reveals that this movie is in the same universe as that of “Unbreakable.” Mind-Blown! This means that there will be another if not multiple movies set in this universe where Bruce Willis’ superhero character will be pitted against Mr. Glass, The Hord (of the beast), and possibly more villains that Mr. Glass has been recruiting. I am so psyched for this!
Is this movie a complete return to form for Shyamalan? Has he completely redeemed himself for his past directing blunders? Perhaps not yet. But he has definitely taken some big steps in that direction. One of my favorite scenes in this film is when Shyamalan portrays a character (he cameos in almost all of his films) that has access to security video footage that Mcavoy’s therapist needs. As they view the footage, the therapist teases Shyamalan’s character for eating too much junk food and “getting soft in the middle” to which Shyamalan replies guiltily, “I know.” This seemed a clever line of dialogue in which Shyamalan poked some fun at himself for not making great directing choices in the middle of his now possibly turning career.
I’m curious to know what you thought of the movie. Did you get the big reveal at the end? Did you catch the “Unbreakable” soundtrack playing right before they revealed the shared universe? Should we forgive Shyamalan? Let me know!