Movie Review: ‘Split’ Is A Return To Form For M. Night Shyamalan

Holy shit! M. Night Shyamalan is back and the world is a better place for it! 15 years ago, my friends and I were as excited for a new Shyamalan movie as we are for a new superhero movie today. He was a genre of his own and the future seemed bright. Then he made ‘The Village’ and it was all down hill from there.

It was weird. I thought ‘The Village’ was an okay movie, but Shyamalan responded like a kid who’d gotten beaten up on the playground. The reviews were only mixed, but he responded with a series of petty and lazily written films. Ever since then it has been one failure after another. I kept watching and hoping he would show that spark of brilliance again. Sadly, it seemed he had lost that touch completely.

After more than a decade, I gave up on the guy. I didn’t even watch his last movie, and it had gotten decent reviews. I just felt like I couldn’t trust the guy anymore. However, the reviews for this movie were generally positive, and it seemed like an interesting concept. So, I decided to give it a shot. Now, I can tell you with complete certainty that I am so glad I took the time to see this movie. It really is a return to form for Shyamalan and a stepping stone towards something that could be remarkable.

The story here revolves around a man named Kevin…..or Dennis……or whatever 1 of his 23 personalities has taken over. This character is played by James McAvoy in a tour de force performance. At the opening of the film, one of his personalities kidnaps three girls played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula. It turns out that he believes he can bring out a 24th personality in a plot that involves these girls, but I won’t give anything else away there.

The main protagonist out of the three girls here is Casey Cooke (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). She is the character we get to know the best and the one who’s dark past is revealed through a series of old school Shyamalan flashbacks. These are expertly crafted scenes and Taylor-Joy does a wonderful job of delivering the sense of loss that the older version of Casey must feel. She’s also quite clever and has some exceptionally intriguing (while occasionally funny) conversations with McAvoy’s character.

The film is a slow boiler. A film that delivers its goods in the same way Shyamalan did when he was first wowing audiences so long ago. He provides an interesting premise and compelling characters. Then he slowly reveals the intricacies of the story and each character through properly placed character development. He uses that development to further the plot and begin to unravel his mystery by leaving out just the right piece, bit by bit, until he’s ready for the big reveal.

It’s a brilliant formula that worked wonders for Shyamalan in ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Unbreakable’, and ‘Signs’, but fell off over time. It is clear here that by returning to his roots he has delivered his best work in 15 years. And in the end he sets up the potential for a sequel that I couldn’t be more excited about. So, if you were ever a fan of this mans work then it is time to come back. He has returned to form and it’s an exciting thing to see!

Nathan Ligon

Film / Theater / Music Critic at Red Carpet Crash
The son of Executive Producer Jon Ligon, Nathan has spent his life in the company of filmmakers and some of the best musicians in Dallas, TX. He has since become a highly viewed critic and short filmmaker for Red Carpet Crash and Shot & Cut Films.
Nathan Ligon

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