Director M Night Shayamalan

M Night Shyamalan has returned, sending shudders down the spines of those who have been subjected to the bulk of his previous outings like The Last Airbender (2010,) The Village (2004) and Signs (2002.) Astonishingly, he has redeemed himself with Split.

Split is the story of Kevin (James McAvoy,) a man with a frightful past at the hands of a sadistic mother whose psyche has split into 23 distinct personalities. Kevin seeks help from a psychiatrist (Betty Buckley) who specialises in multiple personality disorder but he is playing a game of cat and mouse with her.

Hedwig with Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Hayley Lu Richardson)& Marcia (Jessica Sula). Credit: John Baer

Until one of Kevin’s personalities, Dennis, kidnaps three teenage girls after a birthday party; Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and introverted Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and imprisons them in a basement. The horror of their situation dawns as they are greeted by several of Kevin’s personalities and thwarted at every turn in their attempts to escape.

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as Casey Cooke in Split. Credit: Universal Pictures

This is real edge of the seat cinema as hints to Kevin’s motives are revealed, creating a sense of dread and a relentless build-up of tension. A compelling subplot detailing Casey’s history dovetails nicely with the climactic scene, bringing it all together at the critical moment. James McAvoy turns in an excellent performance as Kevin, his acting skills are pushed to the limit creating each of Kevin’s personalities.  9-year-old Hedwig in particular is a tour de force.

There is not a spare moment in the movie’s two hours. It’s tightly conceived and brilliantly realised film making with a completely satisfying ending. A worthy follow-up to The Sixth Sense. Well done M Night Shyamalan – your return to the screen is most welcome.

4 stars

Bobby Stubblefield

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