No matter the thoughts on Split’s effectiveness as a thriller, this is a movie with a surprisingly unexpected twist.
In Split, James McAvoy plays Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 23 personalities, who is compelled to kidnap three girls in broad daylight. This psychological thriller uses the dissociative identity disorder to form the themes of fate and trauma.
McAvoy’s character is split between a gay fashion designer, a nine-year-old, an obsessive-compulsive control freak, and a weird church lady, among other personalities that are not shown much light on.
The director, M. Night Shyamalan, introduces these different personalities one at a time, revealing them through the eyes of the girls.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Casey Cook, sits in the front seat of her friend’s dad’s car, while Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) sit at the back, giggling at their phones. All are waiting for Claire’s father (Neal Huff) who is putting food packages in the trunk.
Looking at the side-mirror, Casey sees the food from the packages splattered on the ground. With her heart racing, she knows something is wrong. She slowly turns her head towards the driver’s side, sees a complete stranger sitting on the seat where Mr. Benoit should have been.
“Hey, pardon me sir, I think you have the wrong car,” says Claire. Within seconds, both Claire and Marcia are unconscious due to the chloroform the stranger sprays on their faces.
Scared, Casey slowly reaches for the door handle. The click of the handle alerts the stranger, Kevin Wendell Crumb of what Casey is up to.
It’s too late to escape.
This scene in Split, introduces the three teenage girls who are abducted by a man with multiple personalities.
The girls are kept underground in an undetermined location, which in the end is revealed as another twist. They try to come up with different ways to escape their bunker-like cell. Each attempt has the audience on the edge of their seats, but McAvoy’s unpredictable character always gains the upper hand.
Meanwhile, there are also times when the kidnapper goes out to meet his therapist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who attempts to untangle the mysteries in Crumb’s head while unaware of the kidnapping.
The more we learn, the darker McAvoy’s character(s) get. Though there are evidently 23 personalities, one dominates the others.
Shyamalan, who has directed The Last Airbender and The Visit, keeps the audience guessing about what will happen next.
In terms of character development, of the three victims only Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Casey, is fleshed out. The film reveals Casey’s troubled backstory through a series of flashbacks throughout the movie.
Ultimately, McAvoy stole the show with his ability to convey the different personalities through facial expressions and body language.
Split is a box office success hitting more than $40 million on the opening weekend. It includes dry black humour, suspense, and definitely holds back many surprises.
It opened Jan. 20 in USA and Canada, runs 118 minutes and is rated PG-13.