Split (2016) - The best psychological thriller of the past five years - 9/10 (03/02/17)
Just like “The Visit” a year earlier, Shyamalan’s new movie “Split” offers a great mixture of psychological suspense, horror elements and an emotional drama with a lot of depth. The great story line, the tense atmosphere and the stunning acting pardon for the lack of a real twist as we usually get from Shyamalan.
The story is quickly told. A man diagnosed with twenty-three different personalities kidnaps three teenage girls and keeps them in an abandoned basement. The girls quickly realize that they can manipulate some of the split personalities while others are very hostile to them. It becomes obvious that the twenty-three personalities prepare for the emergence of a twenty-fourth personality called the beast that plans to feast on the teenagers’ impure bodies. The three girls must find a strategy to escape before their lives will be in danger. At the same time, the psychologist of the man with the numerous personalities realizes that something seems to be wrong with her patient during their therapy sessions. Will the girls manage to escape and the psychologist find out the truth before it’s too late?
The movie develops a quite diversified pace right from the start. The teenagers get kidnapped within the first five minutes of the movie and have to face one of the more aggressive personalities right from the start. The movie then slows down and presents us seven of the twenty-three different personalities. The film also gives us background information thanks to therapy sessions with the perpetrator and his psychologist as well as flashbacks of one of the girls that will become more and more important trhoughout the movie. The last quarter of the film quickens up the pace and leads to a furios showdown and an interesting reference. If compared to Shyamalan’s last movie, some questions are though left unanswered and indicate a potential sequel to this movie. The restricted space in the basement, the calm and precise camera work, the gloomy light effects and the sinister soundtrack progressively increase the uneasy atmosphere of the movie.
James McAvoy has the challenging task to portray eight different personalities all at once and his acting performance alone elevates this movie to a very high level. He is credible in all of his roles and convinces as unpredictable patient that is both perpetrator and victim at the same time. This unprecedented acting performance should be honored with a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role next year. The main actress incarnated by the talented Anya Taylor-Joy is almost as perfect as her character develops a fascinating chemistry with the perpetrator. Initially, she seems to be a shy outcast but turns out to be a clever and empathic young moment who will fight relentlessly for her survival. She’s the tragic heroine of this movie and empathic viewers will definitely care about her fate. She would also deserve a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role next year. Among the secondary characters, Betty Buckley convinces in her role as open-minded psychologist who is walking a thin line between tolerance and insistance to uncover her patient’s gloomy secret. I think she would deserve a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress next year. Overall, the cast is really convincing and easily the best in the psychological horror genre since Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island”.
The only reason why this movie didn’t get all ten points are a few minor lengths in the story telling during the first half of the film and the fact that the movie didn’t come around with a stunning twist in the key of many of Shyamalan’s previous works.
Still, “Split” is an extraordinary psychological thriller with an intense plot, an uneasy atmosphere and absolutely outstanding acting. Genre fans might even have their best movie of the year right here. Even those who like to criticize Shyamalan should admit that “Split” is a success and one of the best movies in his career. This film should definitely be rewarded with awards and is one of the few Hollywood movies that actually deserves all the attention it gets.
Final rating: 9/10