Thursday, February 2, 2017

Movie Review: SPLIT (Review #2)

When three girls are kidnapped by a man (James McAvoy) with 23 different personalities they have work out which of those personalities will help them escape and which of those personalities will will try to stop them. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), a teen with a troubled past, seems to be the only one who might just actually be able to understand and communicate with the madman.

With a premise so wild and fascinating it is hard not to be hooked when you go into the theater. Coming out I can't help but call myself disappointed in a film that has so much potential wasted, thrown away in a structure that can't keep focus of what it's doing.

Even with that, there is still something to be appreciated here. Firstly, it is hard not to be wowed by Shyamalan's mastery in technique. He clearly demonstrates being comfortable in the medium and plays with the audience in several different ways. From the little touches in insert shots to the big, big set-piece shots, he always adds something special and uncanny to them. Be it twenty-three different toothbrushes or a single closing shot on a lock, his images have something to really sink in and love about them. He is a master of the use of focus to build tension or character conflict.

James McAvoy, as always, is in solid acting territory and gives an intense performance. You can see the work he put into this oozing from the screen. The way he switches from one personality to the next is brilliant. You see subtle changes in his face and posture, which makes his performance incredibly special. Moreover, the work he puts in physically pays off. It reads on screen powerfully and makes the difference for the whole film. Surprising is how well Anya Taylor Joy manages to keep up with him delivering an equally functional performance.

Where the film really looses its charm for me is in its script. Unfortunately, it is highly unfocused and does not know where to go or what to do with the compelling premise. Indicative of this is the final twist which I barely managed to grasp.

There is no order in how the story evolves, we give the main character an extensive backstory in flashbacks and that leads nowhere. There is a mystery with the relationship between Kevin and his psychiatrist and that leads to nothing too. Then, there is the main conflict in the kidnapping story that leads us nowhere once again, with possibly the worst resolution of all of the above. And at the center of this, is McAvoy's character, who is as fascinating on paper as he is chaotic on screen.

There is no silver lining with this character, there is no pay off, no purpose to his story, he is simply a gimmick. Consider too the fact that of the supposed 23 personalities we only see seven or eight on screen which makes for a hugely underwhelming experience. Moreover, when you consider the fact that of the ones we see, there are only a couple that get any development, you understand what a bloated journey the view is carried through.

Which is exactly the way I would define the film, a ride that doesn't really have any idea where it is going, but has its moments of inspiration during the trip.

James' Score: 5/10

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