By: Marwan Omar
Life reminds us how difficult it could get on a daily basis. Busy sweaty August traffic, an annoying boss and a hostile mother-in-law are but a few daily examples. Sometimes, you try to handle each situation employing diverse personalities. You wish you are patient to cope with busy summer traffic, tough to show your boss that you’re not the tolerant type and easy-going to withstand mother-in-law’s constant nagging. If you have the multiple personality fantasies (and who of us doesn’t?) then Split is definitely your kind of movie.
Split is centered around Kevin, a man with psychological disorders. Twenty three distinct personalities inhabit his body and take turns in controlling the corpse that is being genetically changed according to whom is taking over. This chaos leads to the abduction of three girls by one of the 23 personalities, for the beast (the 24th awaited personality) to feed on after being unleashed.
After watching Director M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, first thing that came to mind was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, one of the best movies that tackled “multi personalities” in its plot. Outnumbering Hitchcock, Shyamalan didn’t just settle for the two characters implemented in the old era by Hitchcock in his classic. Instead, he invested 23 identities in his character that outstandingly handled the crowd!
Unlike Psycho and most known similar movies, our main concern wasn’t the abductees. Focus wasn’t on their escape plans, their worried relatives or their breakdown moments, despite having them present in the movie. What’s really unique about Shyamalan’s script is that our one and only concern was the troubled abductor. He dominated the screen for most of the movie time; it wouldn’t have been the same without the great James McAvoy.
(James McAvoy as Patricia)
Split is a one-man, stand-alone James McAvoy movie for the fact that his excellent performance will make you recall nothing but his moments on the screen. You’ll remember his marvelous efforts using all his body to deliver successful unrepeated personifications, his ability to perform flawless transitions between his characters within a second, and naturally, his exceptional diligence in creating an atmosphere of small details to each character for the audience to easily be familiar with them without even the need to notice their costumes. You’d only need to hear a glimpse of Dennis’s tone, see Hedwig’s childish movements or sense the calmness of Lady Patricia in order for you to recognize them.
Seeing laughs, tears, anger, fear, violence, ambiguity, disturbance and absolute insanity performed by only one actor in such a complicated role is really something! You might have witnessed great roles by actors who performed solely in their movies, but this massive diversity in feelings and its reflection on the character as whole is just James McAvoy’s stuff. Despite the fact that Split was released really early in the year, but I have no doubt that McAvoy (Known as Professor X in the X Men Series) will be among the 2018 Oscar nominees for the Best Actor in a leading role category for his great performance that could change the future for Professor X’s acting career.
(The Three Abducted Girls: Marcia, Claire, Casey)
Although being completely a James McAvoy movie, Shyamalan’s script created a few other characters (the three abducted girls and Kevin’s psychiatrist) to be able to narrate a fully integrated story. Other than Casey, the girls were the typical we-will-die wining, hysterical characters, providing a non-remarkable performance. And it’s understandable due to Shyamalan’s script which didn’t shed the light on any girl but Casey, performed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who was a proper casting choice as her details were fitting to the mysterious background surrounding her.
(Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher)
And the last character was Dr. Fletcher, Shyamalan’s tool to dig deeper into Kevin and his past experiences that led him to his current state. Their meetings showed the deeper side of Kevin that was masterfully performed by McAvoy, and her presence at crucial moments presented a turning point in the stream of the plot. An important role with another good performance from the old actress, wrapping up The Indian director’s well-crafted characters.
(Director M.Night Shyamalan appearing in Split)
After The Visit in 2015, M. Night Shyamalan had successfully turned back time to the good old days of his classic The Sixth Sense (1999), accompanied by his habit of appearing through scenes of his movies. Apart from his habits, the directing job was as unique as the writing. Close shots were often used alongside continuous gasping sounds to convey the mood of tension and nervousness to the audience. Contrary to what’s typical of this genre of movies, over usage of the eye-exhausting shaky camera was absent, giving Shyamalan the chance to increase the uniqueness of his picture through an attractive variety of steady and moving shots. Moreover, some effective POV and symmetric shots, used at the right timings, enhanced the viewing experience for the audience and made this movie a matchless entry in the history of psychological horror movies.
The breathtaking music composed by James Newton Howard and West Dylan Thordson played a huge part in the success of split, by being a great match to what’s shown on the screen in both horrific and heart touching moments. Music in Split talked horror and sympathy, and it smoothly reached out to us.
Split is a two-hour experience, navigating the deepest parts of the human soul, and it’d probably make you re-think your wishes and fantasies of having more than one personality to handle your daily problems. Having such a great movie like Split released only in January, 2017 has raised the bar high for expectations of what to wait for next.