Friday, October 12, 2018

Split (2016 film)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Split is the story of a man who kidnaps three teenage girls as he is revealed to have 23 different personalities as he becomes unhinged. The second film in a trilogy of films based on individuals with special abilities that was preceded by 2000’s Unbreakable, the film features a man who is holding three young women hostage in order to connect with the different personalities he has. Starring James McAvoy, Anya-Taylor Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, and Betty Buckley. Split is a gripping and harrowing film from M. Night Shyamalan.

Three teenage girls get abducted at a local mall by a mysterious man who inhabits 23 different personalities as they all try to escape but have no clue what they’re facing just as the man himself is being checked upon by a psychiatrist who believes he is developing a new personality. It’s a film with a simple premise yet there’s a lot of complexities into the situation that these three young women are in as they believe they’re facing just one man but he’s not exactly what he seems through the personalities he inhabits. M. Night Shyamalan’s screenplay follows the events that Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) and the many personalities he is in where he would meet his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) as the kind and artistic Barry while he would be the OCD Dennis, the feminine and proper Patricia, and the young boy Hedwig.

For the two of the three teenage girls in Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) who both try to find ways to escape only to be imprisoned in separate rooms. The third teenage girl in Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is aware that something isn't right about Kevin as she’s coping with her own childhood trauma that relates to what is happening to her. Yet, she is the odd girl as she only was with Claire and Marcia because of a party the former was having and didn’t have anything to do while is also someone that prefers to be a loner. This connection with Kevin just adds to the drama and suspense as Casey is more concerned with understanding what Kevin is as a way to earn the trust of one of his personalities and hopefully find a way to get out.

Shyamalan’s direction is engaging for suspense and drama that he creates as much of it is intimate in its setting in this mysterious world that feels like it is set in an underground environment. Shot on location in Philadelphia, the film does have Shyamalan use the city as a major location where Kevin would visit Dr. Fletcher occasionally whenever he needs help as Barry. Though Shyamalan does use a few wide shots for the locations outside of Kevin’s lair, much of his direction has him using close-ups and medium shots that include these claustrophobic scenes where it play into the girls trying to hide or be in this room that has a bathroom next to it that they have to clean constantly or else Dennis does something to them. The camera movements of the hallways with pipes on the ceiling definitely play into this air of terror that looms throughout the film while things feel much freer outside of that place. Notably as there’s scenes in the streets of Philadelphia where Dr. Fletcher would notice something as it relates to Kevin as Barry and what is happening to him as he starts to develop this 24th personality.

Shyamalan’s direction also play into these simple yet effective dramatic scenes such as a meeting between Kevin as Barry/Dennis and Dr. Fletcher where he keeps the camera still in a close-up of Kevin’s face as he’s slowly changing into this personality while Dr. Fletcher is talking. It’s a moment in the film that has Shyamalan using simple methods to get something going as it play into this shift of a man starting to unravel as he is becoming more dangerous to the girls he’s abducted. The film’s third act is about the unveiling of the 24th personality as well as Casey’s discovery about Kevin’s real identity and the personalities he has where it is clear that this is someone who also had trauma that is similar to what she encountered as a child told through flashbacks. Overall, Shyamalan crafts a chilling and provocative film about three teenage girls abducted by a mysterious man with multiple personalities.

Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis does excellent work with the low-key yet eerie look of the interiors at Kevin’s home and the rooms that he has with its usage of little lighting while going for something straightforward with the exterior scenes in day and night. Editor Luke Ciarrocchi does brilliant work with the editing as it does use rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense but also know when not to deviate from fast-paced speed cutting that is often conventional with big-budget films. Production designer Mara LePere-Schloop, with art director Jesse Rosenthal plus set decorators Jennifer Engel and Lauri Gaffin, does fantastic work with the look of the place where Dr. Fletcher works at as well as the home where Kevin lives and keeps his hostages in this small and desolate room. Costume designer Paco Delgado does nice work with the costumes as it include certain kind of clothes that Kevin wears in the different personalities he inhabits.

Visual effects supervisor Ed Mendez does terrific work with the film’s visual effects that isn’t used much except for a key moment in the film’s climax as it relates to the activities of Kevin’s new personality. Sound editor Skip Lievsay does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the tense moments in the suspense into what Kevin becomes. The film’s music by West Dylan Thordson is wonderful for its eerie ambient-based score that help set a tone for the scene without overdoing it while music supervisor Susan Jacobs brings in a soundtrack of a variety of music from hip-hop, classical, indie, and score music from other films to play into the world the characters live in.

The casting by Douglas Aibel is marvelous as it include some notable small roles and appearances from M. Night Shyamalan in a cameo as a security guard who recorded a video of Barry walking out of Dr. Fletcher’s building, Lyne Renee as an academic director for a seminar that Dr. Fletcher is speaking at, Neal Huff as Claire’s father at the beginning of the film before he gets knocked out by Kevin, Sebastian Arcelus as Casey’s father in Casey’s flashback scenes, Brad William Henke as Casey’s uncle John who is seen in the flashbacks as someone that is involved with Casey’s trauma, and Izzie Coffey as a young Casey from her own flashbacks. Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson are fantastic in their respective roles as Marcia and Claire as two teenage girls captured by Kevin as they try to fight back in some ways with the latter leading the charge while the former also tries to fight Kevin as they both end up being isolated.

Betty Buckley is brilliant as Dr. Fletcher as a psychiatrist who is trying to understand Kevin’s condition as she notices that Kevin is starting to behave differently as Barry and later into other personalities such as Dennis where she believes that a new condition has emerged. Anya Taylor-Joy is amazing as Casey Cooke as a teenage girl who is also abducted by Kevin as she tries to understand Kevin while not wanting to do anything that could get her killed due to her own traumas where she would make a chilling discovery as it’s a restrained yet intoxicating performance from Taylor-Joy. Finally, there’s James McAvoy in a tremendous performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb as a man with 23 different personalities as McAvoy displays a lot of different accents, demeanors, and physical stances to play these personalities where he manages to be charming but also dangerous as it is really a career-defining performance from McAvoy.

Split is a sensational film from M. Night Shyamalan that features a tour-de-force performance from James McAvoy. Along with strong supporting work from Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley as well as eerie visuals, a discomforting setting, and a haunting music score. It is a film that marks a major return to form for M. Night Shyamalan as well as be a chilling suspense film that play into the idea of three young women dealing with the unknown. In the end, Split is a phenomenal film from M. Night Shyamalan.

M. Night Shyamalan Films: (Praying with Anger) – (Wide Awake) – (The Sixth Sense) – (Unbreakable) – (Signs) – (The Village) – (Lady in the Water) – (The Happening) – (The Last Airbender) – (After Earth) – (The Visit (2015 film)) – (Glass)

© thevoid99 2018


Dell said...

So happy you like this one. It really is a return to the glory days for M. Night. Easily his best movie in years. And I totally agree this is a career defining performance for McAvoy. He kills it, here. I am so looking forward to Glass.

Brittani Burnham said...

I liked this, but didn't love it as much as so many others did. The performances were excellent, and I'll see Glass so M. Night did his job. lol

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I was skeptical about it but then I saw bits of what James McAvoy did so I gave it a shot and.... motherfucker, it was awesome. This is definitely a return to form for M. Night and I hope Glass delivers.

@Brittani-I might go see Glass if the reviews are good and see if Split isn't some fluke though I don't think After Earth was his fault into why that film sucked. I blame that on Will Smith and his no-talent douchebag son.