Man, with James McAvoy….the gang’s all here.
In the deeply unsettling thriller ‘Split’, McAvoy plays Dennis, a cold, scary, physically brutal force. Dennis is nothing like Patricia, the matronly but fanatical British lady (also played by James McAvoy) who assures anyone in danger that they’ll not be touched or harmed in any way. And then, there’s Hedwig (played by…James McAvoy) who is just an innocent, lisping lad who enjoys dancing to Kanye. Or Barry (you guessed it, James McAvoy), a fashion designer. And…..well, you get the picture.
Here’s the set-up for the madness; three girls, all in their teens, are drugged and abducted in broad daylight outside of a shopping mall, waking up in a bunker with no idea where they are, or who took them. As they soon discover, the individual behind the abduction has twenty-three separate identities, with a 24th…referred to only as ‘The Beast’…on the way. And while that’s bad enough, the fact that M. Night Shyamalan (‘The Sixth Sense’) is the mind behind this story is proof positive that an even more horrifying twist is just around the bend.
Because hey, with Shyamalan, it’s all ABOUT the swerve, right?
Well, yes….and no.
Perhaps the biggest shock with ‘Split’ is the writer/director’s restraint. He manages to create an incredibly unnerving atmosphere in ‘Split’, he relies on the jaw-dropping thespian talents of McAvoy…the actor just doesn’t go through wardrobe changes, the guy embodies each character from facial tics to creepy tendencies….and keeps his audience glued to the proceedings without any real ‘twisty’ shenanigans.
Rest assured, there IS a bombshell here, one that fans of the Shyamalan library will appreciate. But it’s not the trademark hook we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker, and…here, at least…that’s a good thing. While ‘Split’ isn’t without its flaws, Shyamalan, at the very least, proves that he still has a bit of edge to his work, but perhaps even more important, he shows that he’s capable of making something with chills AND maturity.