Here I am, about to disagree with the popular view again. Watching this did not make me think Shyamalan is “back”, or has vastly improved or something along those lines. If anything, it all strikes me as a tad ‘samey’.
Even on the back of good cinematography, the movie itself suffers from atmospheric deprivation, ill-timed and unfocused characterization framing, a complete absence of story foundation and cringeworthy, cheap, try-hard attempts at distracting the viewer into the supposed twists instead of purposefully diverting us into them.
On top of all that, the by now Shyamalan-trademarked lacklustre structure and pace, the terrible (TERRIBLE!) writing and the doltish efforts to force a “surprise” ending upon us, it all contributes to the creation of a weak, ineffective movie, generously saved by one thing alone.
James McAvoy is superb.
Now, imagine the same exact movie and replace McAvoy with anyone else (who isn’t also Tom Hardy because if you’ve seen Bronson, you know that boy would own this role, too). It just would not work. As it stands, miraculously and above its many, many shortcomings, Split does work — on the shoulders of its protagonist. That is not to say that Anya Taylor-Joy is not worthy, she also has to be mentioned with praise, however, I found her budding talent severely underused here and her performance caged within the screenwriting confines of a shadowed, mismanaged backstory and character stagnancy.
Going back to McAvoy, thank the cinematic Gods for that man. A premium performance, engaging to the point of actually making the surrounding happenings an irritating distraction — I would happily spend the duration of the movie watching him doing his “thing” without anything else interrupting me, no background plot, no other actors, just… all 24 of him in front of a camera.
Lucky, James McAvoy’s Kevin is making this a must-watch for anyone interested in harvesting the prime, ripe offerings of a true thespian — but that’s all you can expect from yet another poor effort coming to you directly from Mr Shyamalan’s clouded mind and overinflated ego.
tl;dr: Woman or man, watch this and James McAvoy will get you pregnant.