I recommend turning around in case you have not seen Split, because I’m going to spit out spoilers around every corner. It’s going to happen. I can not not do it without spoilers. So go ahead, leave now before I ruin the fundamental key element of cinematic brilliance that Split just created to every movie lover out there!
Seriously, I truly hope you have seen Split in case you’re going to continue because this is going to start off with a spoiler ….
Split is a fucking sequel!!!!! My god!!! A sequel!!! Guys, I hope everyone was as floored by that last scene of the movie like I was because I did not see that coming! Also, I hope you all have seen Unbreakable because otherwise, Split would not make as much sense as it does for those who have seen it. It is brilliant, a masterful twist of events, brought to you by a director everyone was starting to write off as burned out. But man, did M. Night Shyamalan just prove his point. He is just getting started!
First of all, for me, it is mind baffling how clever it was. It was like a movie in itself, but with that final scene, it became so much more, and just when I thought I loved Split, I was handed this amazing twist and my love for the entire movie grew out of bounds. And it was done with such class! Shyamalan didn’t shove it down our faces, he was subtle about it and I feel like he paid me a compliment. Because not everyone will get the ending, not everyone will understand what Bruce Willis being there means for Split. And I feel like all of us who got it, who were like “oh my god!!!”, we should feel special because we understood, we didn’t have to Google Mr. Glass, we didn’t have to piece it together based on further research or ask “what does the ending of Split mean”. We were there at the cinema and M. Night Shyamalan graciously gave us an ending that, fully understood, reshaped Split within seconds and we got to exit the cinema with those unaware individuals, knowing, that they were just left out from one of the best movie twists ever.
Split is a sequel! And it turns the entire movie around because it’s a sequel to Unbreakable. And at this point I should mention the fact that I love Unbreakable, and as years go by, I appreciate it more and more. In case you haven’t seen Unbreakable, well, you should know a few things about it. For instance, Unbreakable is an unconventional superhero origin story, it’s about a man who survives a train crash (being the sole survivor), and in doing so gains the attention of a man called Mr. Glass. Glass explains to our protagonist David Dunn that he is unbreakable – he doesn’t get sick, he can survive anything and he is extremely strong. So, by having our unbreakable David Dunn, a superhero of sorts, sit at the diner, overhearing the news of Kevin Wendell Crumb, The Horde, Dunn is telling us that Split is an origin story of a super villain! Boom – mind fucking blown!
So here we are, one major spoiler behind us and we haven’t even gotten to the movie itself. It was good by the way, excellent considering the ending and unexpected for what it was actually supposed to achieve. But enough about the ending, honestly, let’s discuss how that journey towards that final moment unravelled.
We start off with a seemingly normal setting of Claire’s (Haley Lu Richardson) birthday, where she has invited her entire art class, including the not so social Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). When Casey reveals that she isn’t being picked up, Claire’s father offers the girls, including Marcia (Jessica Sula), a ride home. Before that ride starts though Dennis (James McAvoy) enters the car and by the time the girls wake up they are locked away in a room, abducted by Dennis.. or so it seems.
The movie uses three different settings to tell its story, first is the present time for the abducted girls, mostly focusing on Casey – as the others are early on hinted to be irrelevant. Second setting is Casey’s past, where through subtle hints the various flash backs reveal the true nature of Casey. The third, again in present time, is Dennis’s interactions with his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckely), who thinks she is talking to Barry – one of 23 personalities living in Kevin’s body. What I loved about Split though was the fact that it didn’t try to show all of the personalities because 23 would have been too much. It’s enough that we know that there are 23 of them, but since we get to see only a fraction of those personalities, Dennis, Patricia, Hedwig, Barry and a few more, there is a little mystery left in the air. Plus, the amount of personalities in Split shown, was exactly the right amount to give us an idea of The Horde without making it comical.
Though honestly, there were moments where I laughed because Hedwig is hilarious! The personality of a 9-year-old, who most likely got his name from Harry Potter, was the highlight of the movie at one point – especially his dance montage to Kanye West. His personality also added a bit of humanity to Kevin as a whole, but not as much as Barry, the gay fashion designer who lost control of Kevin’s body to Dennis and Patricia. Which is unfortunate because those two had this very extreme idea of a 24th personality – somebody more evolved than a human.
At this point, I expect some of you started to see a pattern but I was completely oblivious to what was to come. I just figured the hypothesis of a more evolved human was simply a delusion, until I saw The Beast crawling a wall. And even then, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing at, because the movie does mislead the viewer and not going to lie, I was well mislead. Which I’m thankful for, because that means the end scene was truly and honestly a complete shock!
James McAvoy gives his best performance I’ve seen.. ever! There is nothing to nitpick at because he is in control of all of the personalities, and he doesn’t let them take over too much. There are subtle changes in between Dennis and Patricia, Barry is essentially just a good person. With Hedwig, I think McAvoy has the most fun with, because he is able to let loose by being less confined. And not going to lie, I’ve not really looked at McAvoy in that way before, but the man is hot! Damn, when he was being Dennis, who has OCD, behind all that creepy facade, McAvoy was strong and demanding, which was a side of him I hadn’t seen before – and I kind of liked it.
Another great performance was by the wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy who’s eyes tell you a million things without her even opening her mouth! Seriously, the girl can express so much feeling and emotion through her eyes, that she doesn’t need a script! And since her character’s backstory was quite horrific, with her uncle raping her and becoming her guardian, the choice of actress was on spot. Especially considering that last scene, when she was sitting in the cop car, being told that her uncle was there to pick her up – that face told a million horrible stories at once, and you could see her breaking free of her abuser. Just wow.
That being said, like I mentioned earlier, I thought the other two girls were very irrelevant, and that also showed in the plot. Though pretty good, and with a quite well established storyline, Split still manages to fall into the trap of being a little cliché. There is that one girl who is stripped down to her underwear pretty early on, there is the pretty clueless side character who goes to see her patient with no back-up!, and there is a note on the table with a clue to unlock Kevin from his mind. Well, lucky for Casey she found that note, right? Although it did almost nothing to help her. There are also a lot of moments when you just want to go “what are you doing? Stop!” because the actions of the characters are just plain stupid. Which is Split’s biggest fault, the plot has some really ridiculous and immature moments which make the movie less sophisticated.
Which is disappointing because the overall plot of Split has one very smart and educated choice of story telling – Casey’s survival. After fruitless attempts to escape her kidnaper, she is cornered by The Beast but he just leaves her alone because she, as a person, is broken. After being continuously abused, she had begun to self harm, reason why she was wearing so many layers of clothing – to hide her scars, and seeing those scars, The Beast spares her life. With that choice M. Night Shyamalan was showing us that while The Beast hated perfect people (the irrelevant girls) – he liked the broken ones. The Beast actually tells that to Casey: “The broken are the more evolved”, and by sparing Casey The Beast proves that he does not attack the broken while being very capable of killing the unbroken ones. By presenting us with those two facts, Split introduces a super villain for the unbreakable, by creating him to be the perfect antagonist for David Dunn.
I’ve discussed my lack of interest towards super villains and villains in general for years now. There is just a certain lack of attention towards the purpose, the meaning and the idea of an enemy for the protagonist. The Joker is a very good example of a perfect villain, because he is the opposite to Batman. And based on Split, and knowing what the Unbreakable universe is all about, I have a feeling The Horde (not a very good name though) could be a very well executed villain for Dunn. The ground work has been set, more thoroughly than any other franchise has done before! We know what The Horde is working against (perfect people), and we know what he sympathises with (broken people), so we know he will come for Dunn with an already established grudge due to the fact that Dunn himself is far from broken.
With those final thoughts I must conclude my review for Split, although I could go on forever! Quick summary of this long ass review would be as following: though with flaws, Split delivers a super villain origin story, a fact which is cleverly revealed in the final moments of the movie. That end twist completely alters the movie we’ve just seen, and if you, like me, were completely oblivious to where the story was going, yet understood what Bruce Willis at the end meant, I hope you loved that feeling of shock! And since Split is the only movie I know that has hidden the fact that it’s a sequel right until the last minute of the movie, its quite frankly a very special movie in the context of the digital age.