Split is an extremely difficult film to review and dissect. If you view it as a standalone film, it conveys a particular meaning and ending, however, if you look at it as a sequel, then it appeals to you as a whole new different experience. Before I start off with my review, I would like to inform you that this review is going to contain a lot of spoilers and if you haven’t seen this film, then I urge you to watch the film first and then come back for this review if you have the desire to know my thoughts.
Let us first look at it from the perspective of a standalone film. Split is the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), a person suffering from dissociative Identity disorder that has created 23 distinct personalities within him. Kevin kidnaps three girls for a purpose that is gradually revealed as the film progresses. He holds them in a cell and as time passes, three of his personalities interact with the three girls unraveling their purpose in his plan of things. The girls, on the other hand, are making their own plans to escape from Kevin’s confinement. Among the three girls is Casey (Anya Taylor Joy), a girl who has surprising knowledge of the situations that the three girls are in. Meanwhile, one of Kevin’s personalities, Barry visits his psychologist rather frequently as he is overwhelmed by what his other personalities are doing. However, he doesn’t tell her anything.
The Psychologist, Dr. Fletcher played by Betty Buckley tries to unravel what is cooking in Kevin’s mind as she grows more and more suspicious of his behavior. In the backdrop of it all, a 24th personality is developing in Kevin that seems to be the most ruthless of the lot and who is looked upon as a redeeming factor as also a defender by the rest of the 23 personalities. The girls must escape this horrendous abomination that is about to feed on them. Casey has a horrendous past of abuse that is revealed in bits and pieces as we see the story unfold from varied perspectives. By the end of the film, the 24th personality known as the beast is unleashed. The beast eats up the two girls leaving Casey alive as he comes to learn of her tortured past through the scars on her belly. The beast escapes and survives multiple bullet wounds and stabs giving testimony to his supernatural abilities as was throughout the film believed by the other personalities of Kevin and repeatedly approved by Dr. Fletcher.
The film shows us how a troubled youngster completes his
mental fantasies and metamorphs into a something lesser human and more primal being. The beast has the abilities of the animals that Kevin was in close proximity to during his tenure as a caretaker at the zoo where he was incidentally holding the girls. It can climb on walls, it has bulletproof skin and it eats human flesh. According to Dr. Fletcher, a person who believes himself to be something can be that provided the belief is complete and strong. Taking this logic into account, everything in the film falls into place including the beast’s bulging nerves and superhuman strength.
However, the manner in which the film ends makes you feel for a second that you have been betrayed. Casey is handed over to her abusive uncle, Kevin escapes and begins a new life wherein his 23 personalities have equal participation but is led by the beast himself. So you think to yourself that how can this be the end of the film. We haven’t had any closure right ?That is the moment when you have a fraction of a minute appearance of Bruce Willis as David Dunn from Unbreakable and you realize that what you have been watching so far actually was an origin story of a super villain who in all eventualities will face off against the superhero in a future sequel. Unbreakable was an origin story of a superhero and Split is that of the super villain. Once you realize that, Split becomes an even better film. Thus it may not work completely as a standalone film due to the evident lack of closure but as a sequel to Unbreakable, it is near perfect.
When you re-watch the film and now from a superhero story perceptive, everything in the film makes more sense. Suddenly the beast feels a tad bit more real. Suddenly you realize the connection of Kevin and David Dunn and you are also able to see the numerous similarities to the comic book movie. Similarities that you in all eventuality had missed before. What I also loved about the film was its intriguing development and superlative performances. The pacing was just right and I couldn’t find a single instance where the screenplay got weak or boring or for that matter dragged.
James McAvoy was brilliant. his transformation from one personality to the other was brilliantly done. I was in love with the character of Hedwig. He is a 9 year old and is nearly manipulated by Cassey. He is not only sweet but also very faithful to the rest of the personalities. Anya Taylor Joy is brilliant as well. I loved her in The Witch but here she easily supersedes her act from both The Witch and Morgan where she was the only good thing about the whole film. Betty Buckley is immensely likeable. Her dialogs with barry are a means for us to look into the psyche of this extraordinary man, and Shyamalan does exceedingly well to milk this scenes to its optimum.
Split has just wet my appetite for more. I can’t wait to see how Kevin’s story ends and what Shyamalan has to offer in the final film of what is a trilogy now.
Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)