Once upon a time, there was an amazing filmmaker. His name was M. Night Shyamalan and his film The Sixth Sense was one of the biggest surprises in recent film history. The movies that followed, were also great (Unbreakable, The Village) or at least pretty decent (Signs, Lady in the Water) but it all went downhill from that. We don’t speak about The Happening and let’s just pretend After Earth and The Last Airbender never happened. And then, suddenly, Split came along.
Getting back on track
I reckon it’s really hard to go from being Hollywood’s new wonder director to Hollywood’s biggest loser director. But that is basically what happened to M. Night Shyamalan. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it all went downhill. The reviews for Lady in the Water were mixed at best and there’s something to say for both positive and negative reviews for that film. But The Happening was terrible, no matter what you say. The Last Airbender was even worse, considering the source material was soooooo good. It was a huge achievement to make something great like Avatar flop big time.
Devil (which Shyamalan only wrote and didn’t direct) was a pretty cool and original horror movie but Devil didn’t make it big and was more of a low key hit. Perhaps because of the different director? Either way, go see this film if you like horrors. Back to Shyamalan and his film after that, After Earth… Well, let’s just say it takes a special kind of stupid to get a 4,9 on the IMDb. So it was a bit of a surprise that after three years, Shyamalan was back with the very original Split. While it’s not his best, it certainly is a very entertaining film. Could it be that the once great director is finally back?
Thank you James McAvoy
Split wouldn’t have been such a succes without James McAvoy. He has the lead as a man with 23 distinct personalities. Not all of those pop up during Split, but McAvoy showcases eight of these personalities. And damn, this proves once more that McAvoy can act. He plays a very sweet Barry and a motherly Patricia. His Hedwig, a child, is so convincing and endearing. But it’s his Dennis who steals the show, as one of the more empowered personalities. Dennis gave me the creeps. Shyamalan can praise whoever he wants that Joaquin Phoenix couldn’t reach an agreement to star in Split because this film thanks it’s succes to McAvoy’s acting skills.
That being said, I also have to give high praise to Anya Taylor-Joy. She is best known for her part as Thomasin in The VVitch. This young actress has a pretty difficult part as one of the girls Dennis/Patricia/Barry/etc abducts. It’s hard to make something out of a role like that (it’s pretty easy to go to the stereotypical scared young girl) but her Casey Cook is a true heroine. So these actors and their characters, together with a surprising script and OK plot, make Split into the hit Shyamalan and moviefans so desperately needed.
Split in the Shyamalan Universe
Beware, slight (but no huge) spoilers follow from here! After the movie ends but just before the credits start, a short scene in a nondescript diner begins. On television, a reporter speaks of ‘The Horde’ (which is McAvoy’s character) and a woman comments that this reminds her of something that happened years ago, with ‘a funny guy in a wheelchair’. She then asks “what was his name again?” Cue the camera going to none other than Mr. Bruce Willis (as David Dunn), who answers her question with “Mr. Glass.” Shocker!
This ofcourse links Split to Unbreakable. Shyamalan and McAvoy have both confirmed this. It even was Shyamalans original plan to feature McAvoy’s character in Unbreakable, but to to his complexity he was written out of the script. This is all for the better, as now we have Unbreakable and Split. It get’s even more exciting, as there is a sequel coming: Glass, with Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson (Mr. Glass), James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy all reprising their roles. Let’s hope this 2019 film will be one of the best Shyamalan has yet to give us.