Split SPOILER Review: The 24th Personality
Split is the best movie M. Night Shyamalan has made since Signs. Now, I know that’s not saying much, considering films such as The Happening and The Last Airbender are among that bunch. Regardless, Split is a cut-throat, psychological thriller with a tour de force performance from James McAvoy. The reality of this film is, I can’t nearly talk about Split the way it deserves to be, without going into full spoiler territory.
You have been warned!
Throughout Split, Dennis, (who is one of McAvoy’s personalities) talks about an all-mighty milestone in the evolution of humans, “The Beast.” Dennis is a quiet, soft-spoken, OCD man who is the one that kidnaps the three girls at the beginning of the film. Dennis is obsessed with keeping everything around him spotless. If there is even a speck of dirt on your clothing, Dennis will have a minor panic attack and tell you to remove said clothing. He is without question the loose cannon out of that 23 personalities.
Dennis answers to Patricia, who has taken control as the “leader” out of all of Kevin’s personalities. Patricia and Dennis were outcast from the rest of the group due to their questionable beliefs, to say the least. Patricia is the puppet master behind the kidnapping of the three young girls. The big reason why the two did this, is because of a “Beast” that is powerful, can climb walls like a rock climber, is bulletproof and eats the flesh of the “pure” and “ungifted.”
Talk of this beast increases throughout the film, with each personality bringing it up in different contexts. Barry, who is the general personality that visits Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) tells the psychologist that this beast is real, even though none of the others have seen it before.
Along the way, we meet a fair amount of Kevin’s personalities. Barry describes that they all sit in a circle full of chairs, and are each called upon when they are shown “the light.” This light, as Barry describes, is how they take control of Kevin’s body and manifest their personalities using his body as a host.
Before I get further into detail, I have to comment on James McAvoy’s courageous and excellent performance as the damaged soul with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). James McAvoy may be one of the most underappreciated actors working today. No matter what film, he always commits 100%, giving the role everything he has. I would argue that this is without question McAvoy’s best performance to date. He can distinguish all of these personalities through minor nuances in his performance.
One scene in particular that comes to mind is a smaller one in the grand scheme of the film. It’s when Barry is having one of his many “emergency” sessions with Dr. Fletcher. During said meeting, Fletcher keeps mentioning Dennis, and how she feels Dennis a trying to come into the light, as Barry isn’t acting like his usually flamboyant self. When Fletcher manages to bring Dennis into the light, after countless days of struggling, the subtlety in McAvoy’s transformation is nothing short of spectacular. I was floored.
Even though Kevin is the main character in Split, M. Night also takes the time to develop Casey (Anya Taylor Joy). Casey is an outsider in every sense of the word. We that from her opening shot of the film, as she was “pity invited” to a classmates birthday party. Flashbacks are shown from Casey’s past, showing her relationship with her father and her uncle. Her dad used to take her on hunting trips, seemed like a decent guy Who genuinely loved his daughter.
Her uncle, on the other hand, is a complete and total asshole. Throughout these flashbacks, Casey’s layers as a character unfold, and we see that her uncle abused her sexually while she was only five years old. This makes Casey (in the context of the film) damaged and “not pure.”
As Split draws close into its third act, the storyline of “The Beast” becomes front and center. At their last meeting, Dr. Fletcher became increasingly worried about the notion of this beast being real. Fletcher shows up at Kevin’s residence and catches Dennis outside where he is locking the gate to where he lives. He invites her inside, and she is in awe of the way he lives. The place appears to be an abandoned, but little does she know, the three girls are being held hostage right under her nose.
At this point, all 23 of Kevin’s personalities genuinely care for Dr. Fletcher. They thank her for helping them, they trust her, and is the only relationship this individual has. During Dennis and the Doctors conversation, she becomes more convinced and in return more terrified of the situation. After saying she’s going to the bathroom, Dr. Fletcher opens a locked door to find one of the girls malnourished and begging for help.
Dennis drugs the Doctor and goes off to turn into The Beast. Yes, with this particular disorder in the context of this world, your thoughts can alter your body matter so much that you can become more than human. His veins are popping out of his chest; he has grown exponentially. He is also bulletproof and can run, jump and climb faster than any living thing.
The Beast kills the poor doctor by breaking almost every bone in her body. There is still an ounce of empathy and respect as the doctor dies from our multi-personality antagonist turned beast. He goes on to eat the other two girls in their holding cells, murdering them in gruesome fashion. However, Casey will not go down that easily. We are told by the doctor earlier in the film that she can bring Kevin back by saying his full name, but she won’t do that because it will send his body into a panic and all of his personalities will reach for the light at the same time.
Before meeting her and, Dr. Fletcher writes this down on a piece of paper, which Casey sees. She say’s his name out loud, his real name, Kevin Wendell Crumb. After fighting with his body, we finally meet the real Kevin, though brief as it may be. After finding out that he killed two innocent girls, as well as Dr. Fletcher, Kevin insists that Casey goes to get his shotgun and kill him. Unfortunately, what Fletcher said was going to happen does. All of Kevin’s personalities come to light, seconds between one another, in a miraculous presentation by James McAvoy. He is fearless here, giving the role everything inside him and showcases half a dozen performances, in 90 seconds. Again, I was floored. After all of this, Kevin turns back into the Beast, to which his full name does nothing as he is too powerful now.
Some more running happens, and Casey attempts to shoot the beast four times, to no avail. When Casey is cornered in a jail cell, The Beast rips open the bars with his superhuman strength. That is when the beast, and us, see Casey’s scars. Her body is littered with them, scars that show that she has suffered, that she is not pure, that she should rejoice. The Beast backs away and lets her life, as they (the now 24 personalities) only want to feed on the weak and pure.
We find that Kevin’s layer is in the basement of an abandoned part of a Zoo. Casey is found and taken in by the police, and when she is asked if she wants to go with her uncle, she stares at the cop with fear.
We cut away to Kevin going to an empty apartment, to which all of his personalities manifest and talk with one another. They state that this is only the beginning and the world hasn’t seen anything yet.
Oh, and later we see the coverage of the killings and the killer on the news at a local diner. Someone brings up that a man 15 years ago with abilities that killed tons of people. After the civilians are talking about what this person’s name is, we see David Dunn, yes Bruce fucking Willis himself, say “Mr. Glass.”
So SPLIT takes place in the same universe/is the unofficial sequel to Unbreakable???
Who cares because this movie is phenomenal, I loved Split, a lot. I loved how daring it was and how much trust Shyamalan has in his audience. The lengths McAvoy went to bring all of these different characters to life.The films try to go for messages about people being different and acceptance, and I don’t feel that it was achieved.
However, if you are looking for classic Shyamalan, an Oscar caliber performance, and some genuine tension and surprises, then see Split. I didn’t nearly expect to like, let alone love it so that you may be surprised!
Split opens nationwide on January 20th, 2016