This article may contain spoilers. First, I saw Split on theater posters. This M.Night Shyamalan experience in a movie theater was probably excellent. However, I went around Split’s theater presentation. I saw it on Blu-ray. I did not have an issue with the movie, but did want more of a change. I will explain what I mean at the end of this piece. Since Wide Away, and up to the recent successes The Visit, and Split, M. Night Shyamalan proved he was one of the greats. His visuals engross. Shyamalan’s stories, if they appeal to you, can draw you in. You invest in the worlds and understand the storyteller more with each of these franchises. The Last Airbender, while many pushed it away, has its merits. It has solid qualities, visually and in parts of the story especially, that go along with its failings. The point is M. Night Shyamalan both tells stories, and has, I imagine, future tales to enthrall the public. This one, however, gave me a specific thought.
Split, a film from Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Dentsu, and Fuji Eight Company Ltd. follows the story of Kevin Wendell Crumb and the case of his 23 personalities. He kidnaps three girls. The young women must escape his grasp before a new, fierce, personality emerges. Throughout the film, his doctor admires him. She explores a new theory about Kevin with those in the mental health community. She makes a determination. She feels the changes in Kevin are important, for not just his, but all of our futures.
M. Night Shyamalan is excellent as the writer, and director of this piece. James McAvoy switches between personalities simply in the movie. Each character is distinct, in mannerism, action, and tone. There is even an internal struggle of good and evil within Kevin’s character. McAvoy’s characters draw you in. The specific examples come in his change between two characters at one time. For example, Kevin becomes an organized man, and a character that is an extravagant artist. It is fun to watch McAvoy move between the different character types. This is beyond great when you see it in action. McAvoy just embodies each character. The three girls in Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula hold youthful appeal, sensual innocence, and determination in the face of danger. Each plays an important part in this story. For example, with Anya Taylor-Joy, as Casey Cooke, holds a secret from the past that helps her in her dangerous situations. Haley Richardson, as Claire Benoit, fights to live throughout the piece, but encourages the other girls to fight as well. Jessica Sula, as Marcia, plays a part that is very hard to do. She is a character that could get on your nerves, but manages to be a solid and effective friend. Betty Buckley, as Dr. Karen Fletcher, is a combination of real world psychology, sexy, and brilliant, but not over the top psychologist. Shyamalan opens the locations in Philadelphia, whether at the Art Museum or at the Zoo, to viewers in unique ways with every shot in this movie. At one point, he shoots in the same location but in different ways. It becomes a lesson in how to use your environment. Each scene serves a different, effective purpose.
This film is solid. There is a burn. I do not want to call it slow, but it reaches a climax that is good. I just wish it were epic. After Kevin, played by McAvoy, takes the girls, the story becomes a lesson in survival. It is question of how do these girls get out of this? Who would find them? There is also a concern about who will deal with Kevin. His 24th personality is trouble. When it happens, it is great. McAvoy as the other personalities presents a clinical study. This movie’s beginning could easily pay homage to One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is a display of McAvoy’s true acting skills. The 24th personality is nasty and takes this story elsewhere. It is out of nowhere, but it grows on you in a short time. McAvoy plays it well. It looks like fun. The movie is fun, at points, while other parts are somber and worrisome.If you watch Unbreakable, and see David Dunn’s rise, this is opposite. Casey Cooke, played by Taylor-Joy, is the one who survives this adventure. This is both satisfactory and troublesome. Cooke’s character comes clean about something from her past. This is the good. In the same way, Cooke’s survival gives you a glimpse into Kevin’s endless, evil intent.
The Only Problem
The action in Split is okay. The actors, and story, push the movie over the top. The end of Split allows you to consider many great possibilities for the future, but it makes me hesitate. This only came to my mind after I saw this movie’s credits. First, M. Night Shyamalan, Will Smith, David Boreanaz, Marc Summers, or individuals like Nakia Dillard, Floyd Marshall Jr., Atif Lanier, Mike A. Pender, and many others play the role of the Philadelphia Players well. You have some individuals you must respect, in all parts of media, at all levels that represent Philadelphia well. There are so many other names to mention, but like them, M. Night Shyamalan gives this city a real name and influence in entertainment.
Here I go. I think Shyamalan should hire an action director for his scenes in the next film of this franchise. I also hope others invest some more money in him. Allow Shyamalan to make the film he wants, but bump up the product. I apologize for mentioning it, but sort of hope something different comes from this announcement. There is a scene in Split. It calls back to a similar scene in Signs. It has suspense, horror, and drama, but the action slows. It embraces the beauty of the scene more where a truly action driven scene might take the film in another direction. The same happens in the action portions of Lady in the Water. You can even see it in The Last Airbender. I only mention this because the Unbreakable sequel looks to have a collision of actors and elements in a real world of the fantastic. The future movie has to stay at the ground level, but can still have action that rises to any occasion.
I thought Shyamalan could get Sam Raimi to help in the next adventure. The fact is the action might be too much. Instead, is it possible that Shyamalan could get the help of Steven Spielberg to boost the nature of the piece? Could Spielberg and Shyamalan ignite the Unbreakable sequel, but stay close to the original vision Shyamalan intended? In return, Shyamalan can bring a worthwhile flavor to a new Indiana Jones film. This is all dream fiction though. In the end, Shyamalan makes a good piece, regardless, with every idea. He knows how to succeed in film. I just wish the action in some of these movies had a stronger pace. For example, there is collision of elements at the end of the movie Lady in the Water. A human guardian, Skrunt, and three earth guardians interact. Instead of a long standoff, could there be a real world battle on film with a tinge of high action? The same happens in Unbreakable. There is part where Bruce Willis’ character, David Dunn, takes on his first villain near the end of the movie. Instead of a choke hold, the characters could have had a realistic, but super, fight.
I feel this is what partly drags The Last Airbender down. This is all wishful talk though. Split is a good movie. You should see it without hesitation. Shyamalan is definitely one of the greats. I would love to work with him if a place exists for me to do so. I just wish the action, in some of his films, were more rapid.