Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The 24th Persona

M. Night Shyamalan continues his impressive comeback which began with 2015’s ‘The Visit’ in his latest directorial feature ‘Split,’ a twisty psychological chiller that harks back to his earlier works such as ‘The Sixth Sense,’ Unbreakable’ and ‘Signs.’  While this won’t entirely wipe away his later string of disappointments including ‘The Village,’ ‘Lady in the Water’ and ‘The Happening,’ the Indian-American former NYU grad proves that he’s still “master of the Night” when he’s on top of his game.
‘Split’ tells the intriguing tale of Kevin (James McAvoy in one of his best performances to date) , a troubled loner with a condition the field of clinical psychology calls “dissociative identity disorder.”  To put it simply, he has 23 distinct personalities, of which two happen to be dominant.  One such identity is a creepy weirdo named Dennis who stalks young girls.  In the movie's opening scene (and in the trailer) this particular incarnation kidnaps three teenagers, one of whom is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from ‘The Witch’), a disturbed and abused girl herself who engages in a battle of wits with Kevin's myriad personalities (including a 9-year old boy named "Hedwig") as they manifest themselves in her attempt to get out alive.
‘Split’ is a masterwork of psychological terror and suspense.  Much of this is due to McAvoy’s bravura turn as the man with many faces and  particularly his uncanny ability to switch among the multiple personalities with seemingly effortless ease.  Anya Taylor-Joy was also compelling as the damsel-in-distress whose survival instincts are fueled by an inner strength born out of her own dark childhood and history, which unfolded through a series of flashbacks.  The film reaches its climax in truly frightening fashion as Kevin’s 24th personality emerge from the depths of his being, a physiological transformation so primal that made it nothing less than an apotheosis.

Grade: A 

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