Once hailed as a groundbreaking director at the turn of the millennium, M. Night Shyamalan’s career has slowly spiraled into relative obscurity — until now.
His latest project “Split” surprised critics during its opening weekend at the box office, raking in more than $40 million in sales — an amount four times greater than the film’s total budget.
Billed as a horror movie, “Split” actually presents the atmosphere of a thriller, slowly building in tension before delivering a commanding climax that is both unnerving and thoroughly satisfying.
The film follows a war veteran named Kevin struggling with dissociative identity disorder, as 23 different personalities continuously vie for control of his body.
The movie opens with a kidnapping, as one of McAvoy’s personalities unexpectedly abducts a trio of young girls in the middle of a bustling parking lot. For the remainder of the film, the girls attempt to determine the reason for their kidnapping, as McAvoy repeatedly warns of an emerging 24th personality know as “The Beast.”
“Split” does not shy away from addressing a number of controversial topics, including child abuse, sexual assault and the stigma surrounding mental health.
James McAvoy’s portrayal of dissociative identity disorder is simply indescribable. It can be difficult for an actor to play a single role in a major film, let alone shift through 23 separate roles at a constant pace.
In the blink of an eye, McAvoy can make the transition from a charismatic fashion designer to a 9-year-old boy who jams out to Kanye West.
The remainder of the cast is relatively unknown, but actress Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a gem as a shy teenager who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As the film’s major protagonist, Taylor-Joy takes a powerless character and creatively reveals her hidden layers. The audience can almost feel the desperation in her eyes as Taylor-Joy’s character frantically searches for an escape route while piecing together the reason for her abduction.
Fans of Shyamalan’s previous work will be floored by the final moments of the film, which offer a potential glimpse at what he has planned for the future.
A horror film in the early months of the year may not seem like the most attractive option for moviegoers, but Shyamalan delivers an instant classic in what is sure to set expectations for years to come.