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An Even “Split” Between Meandering and Unoriginal

The winter thriller's chaotic storyline and undeveloped backstory cause the film to fall short of its maximum potential.

James+McAvoy+plays+Kevin+Crumb+in+%22Split.%22
James McAvoy plays Kevin Crumb in

James McAvoy plays Kevin Crumb in "Split."

MCT Campus

MCT Campus

James McAvoy plays Kevin Crumb in "Split."

Tara Jungden, Print Managing Editor

While the concept of “Split” is fairly original, writer, director and producer M. Night Shyamalan’s characteristic suspense driven cinematography is overused to the point of making any M. Night fan feel like they’ve already seen this film 10 times over, even on premiere night.

The 23 personalities of the dissociative identity disorder (colloquially known as multiple personalities disorder) victim are in a constant state of battle for “the spotlight,” meaning the power to control the body they all possess. The personalities seeking this power range from an innocent 10-year-old boy, to an ill-willed middle aged woman, to a gay fashion designer. This one hour and 57 minute thriller would have been far improved had it been cut in half. But, as may be presumed, 23 personalities are a lot to fit into one short movie. Even in the near two hours allotted for the film there are still at least 18 personalities that go completely unrecognized, begging the question: Why claim there are 23 personalities if the audience is only going to be exposed to a handful of them?

Shockingly, and in spite of such a large undertaking, Scottish actor James McAvoy fluidly executes the 23 personalities of deranged character Kevin Wendell Crumb. Each personality’s greatly contrasting characteristics would seemingly create a huge challenge for an actor. However, McAvoy’s transition from character to character appears effortless. The flaws that degrade this movie are in no part due to the performance of McAvoy. They are a reflection on the abstrusity of Shyamalan.  

The inconsistencies in this winter thriller are little of a surprise in consideration of Shyamalan’s also inconsistent success throughout his cinematic career. Hitting his professional climax on only his second film, “The Sixth Sense,” which he both wrote and directed, Shyamalan’s career has been somewhat of a downward spiral ever since. Glimmers of redemption sparkled as his films, “Signs,” and “Devil,” released with decent amounts of success, but these rays of hope were not strong enough to outshine the ridiculousness of some of his other films like, “The Visit,” and “The Last Airbender.”

Shyamalan’s weaknesses are in his trademarks. Storytelling through flashbacks, extended over-the-shoulder shots and ominous silhouette cinematography are what make even his premiere films seem unoriginal to audience members familiar with his past work. However, in the instance of Shyamalan’s characteristic comic relief in scenes of darkness and danger, an exception can be made to his inability to step outside his comfort zone. The 10-year-old personality of Hedwig had the sold out audience laughing out loud in the midst of an otherwise grim film. The humor was one of the only redeeming factors in this mess of a highly contrived storyline.

Those who wish to see the movie should watch the trailer before going to see it. If you are unamused, this movie is not going to be worth your time or money. However, if you are easily spooked and find suspense movies to actually be thrilling, then you will view this movie with a less critical eye, especially if you are unacquainted with Shyamalan’s previous works. To those not yet tired of his overused cinematographic traits, this could very well be seen as cinematic genius.

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