Split is the latest feature from famed writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and it tells the tale of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy; X-Men: Apocalypse), a disturbed man with 24 distinct personalities. Abused as a child, he created these facets of himself to protect the little boy within. Some of the personalities are nice and friendly, while others are more sinister and destructive. Leading this "altered" life, no one is aware of his different sides other than his longtime therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley; Eight is Enough).
In anticipation of the 24th personality to emerge, Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls to use as "sacrifices" to "the beast". Claire (Haley Lu Richardson; Edge of Seventeen) and Marcia (Jessica Sula; Love and Marriage) are two typical, somewhat shallow teenage girls who Kevin believes deserves to die but in Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy; The Witch), he finds a kindred spirit and she is aware there is something very different about Kevin. The three must find a way to reach Kevin and escape from the underground rooms where they are being held before it is too late.
Shyamalan journeys back to his glory days with this new script and film. Split is intricate, provocative, unusual, thrilling and disturbing all at the same time and Shyamalan keeps us in that suspenseful mode throughout the film, which only adds to heighten our angst. He has definitely stepped up his game from 2015's lackluster movie, The Visit. His use of long, dark hallways are metaphoric of Kevin's mind and the light airy feel of Dr. Fletcher's office offers him and the audience comfort and solace during turmoil.
McAvoy is masterful in his role as he takes on nine different characters all rolled into one heaping mess of a human being. Watching him seamlessly transition between a young boy, an OCD maintenance worker, a seemingly harmless, yet devious, older woman and an up and coming fashion designer is a spectacular treat. His tortured portrayal of Kevin and his "horde" couldn't have been pulled off by many, but he proves to be a versatile actor in this role and it is certainly something worth seeing.
Buckley is a breath of fresh air from some of the other older actresses we have seen of late and was well cast as Kevin's therapist. Thinking of other ladies who could have taken on this character, I feel she manages to blend intelligence, prodding, and tenderness that another might not have been able to portray as well. Occasionally, I wondered if she was having a hard time remembering her lines or simply playing the character as introspective and analytical at times but, regardless, she does it well. Taylor-Joy reminds us why she is up and coming in Hollywood and between this role and her character in The Witch, she shines and stands out among a group of terrific actresses. Her interactions with McAvoy are excellent and they play well off one another in an excellent casting move.
With Split, Shyamalan reminds us what was so appealing about his 1996 success, The Sixth Sense, and makes us feel he is once again on a creative upswing. He also gives us a nugget at the end of the film to remind us of another of his better works (which I won't spoil) and possibly teases a sequel (which I wouldn't recommend, frankly). Other than being a little too long, there is a lot that is appealing about Split. If you want to be on the edge of your seat for most of the movie, I recommend this feature.