Split (2016)
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Split (2016)

It appears that M. Night Shyamalan may be back on top of his game. Following a phenomenal start to his feature film career with ‘The Sixth Sense,' Mr. Shyamalan fell short of maintaining the momentum. He became relegated to a punch line resulting from a series of lackluster movies that failed to hold the interest of the audience or garner praise from the critics. With his latest opus, ‘Split,' the Shyamalan magic touch has returned. A substantial reason for this success is that homemaker secured the services of two of the most talented performers currently active. James McAvoy has become one of the most familiar faces in Hollywood. Most notably he has taken over the coveted role of Professor Charles Xavier and rebooted ‘X-Men ‘franchise. He also held the titular role in ‘Victor Frankenstein’ as well as such notable television appearances on the British version of ‘Shameless’ in the sci-fi miniseries ‘Dune.' Mr. McAvoy is a chameleon, able to effortlessly split into his role creating a fully formed and relatable character. This ability proved to be crucial for his appearance in this film. The name, Anya Taylor-Joy, has been one that I noticed in the credits of, especially thought-provoking and well-crafted films. She provided mesmerizing performances command screen as the lead character in both ‘Morgan’ and ‘The Witch.' Considering these are fundamentally her entire resume this young woman is well on her way to becoming a well sought after actor able to undertake the most challenging performances great style. It was a brilliant decision by Mr. Shyamalan to have such gifted artist bringing his life story to life. Their respective roles are standard requisites in a thriller, particularly one infused with nuances of horror. Their characters are among the best that Mr. Shyamalan has ever written, painted with a fine brush imbuing them subtleties derived from the darkest recesses of the human mind. The synergy generated by this film provides the audience with a spectacular experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Claire Benoit (Haley Lu Richardson) was in the closing moments of a birthday party discussing the social implications of a best friend, Marcia (Jessica Sula), Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), thanks to a hostess and is prepared to leave. Claire’s father (Neal Huff) offers to drive the three of them home. As he’s packing the presence into the trunk and man approaches, renders him unconscious and jumps in the driver’s seat to take the girls away. The man sprays Claire and Marcy in the face causing them to become unconscious. Casey tries to engage them in conversation but is soon sprayed unconscious herself. We soon learned that the man is named Dennis (James McAvoy) and is technically not an individual, but one of 23 distinctly different multiple personalities cohabitating the mind of Kevin. A synopsis of the situation may only take a couple of sentences but requires much of the film’s first act to elucidate this information to the audience thoroughly. This is the essential element for success with Thriller, teasing the audience barely sufficient information to bait their attention riveted to the story as it unfolds. Superficially the story appears to be little more than the usual scenario consisting of a psychologically deranged rapist/killer holding three of his next designated victims enjoying the infliction of ever-increasing psychological abuse. The way their captor speaks to them, it is evident that he has something different in mind for them, and it requires something that’s coming soon is not there as of yet.

The pacing of the story is impeccable, each morsel of information meticulously planned as to how and when it the audience sees it. It is not unusual for a movie containing this particular set of circumstances the director would attempt to create a claustrophobic feeling heightening the sense of terror, abandonment, and hopelessness the teenage girls a feeling. Shyamalan obviously avoids this well-trod path for a different source of psychological terror. There are three main entwined that together combine for the full story. First, we learn more about Kevin and his 23 personalities. Kevin Crumb has been under the care of Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) for the last three years. Dr. Fletcher specializes in DID, dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as multiple personalities. Here in the real world veracity of this disorder has been the subject of heated debate for many years. Popularized by such novel/movies as ‘Sybil’ and ‘The Three Faces of Eve,' the concept of more than one personality sharing the same body gain a degree of popularity. It has become the screenwriter’s serviceable plot contrivance, but as far as clinical acceptance the disorder remains omitted from the definitive psychological guide for mental health professionals, The DMS 5 is an outbound by such restrictions on professional conduct. Within Kevin’s mind, the personalities sit in chairs in a dark room illuminated by a beam of light in the center. To be manifested by Kevin’s physical body, the personality must be ‘in the light.' Up until recently the most stable of the personalities, Barry, has been able to control access to the light. Turn the personalities were completly banned from access, Dennis, and Patricia, for the violent and antisocial behavior stemming from their fanatical belief of a persona referred to as ‘The Beast.' This is what Dennis was referring to when talking to the three kidnapped girls, the manifestation of this previously unseen 24 personality.

One of the main threads shows Dennis, disguising himself as Barry, contacting Dr. Fletcher. After years of working with all the ‘alters,' she has gained the ability to determine which one is in the light. Although Dennis managed a reasonable facsimile of Barry’s OCD and preoccupation with fashion, Dr. Fletcher was confident that somehow Dennis had managed to take control. Some of what initially happened to Kevin is shown in a tightly controlled number of flashbacks. There’s another judicious use of flashbacks that provide the foundation for Casey’s personality. When Casey (Izzie Leigh Coffey) was a little girl five years of age of father (Sebastian Arcelus) and his younger brother, John (Brad William Henke), took her on camping and hunting trips. Casey learned survival skills, self-assurance, and hallway around reference on these family outings. As we learn later on much of her core personality was, fortunately, the crucible of her childhood terror. The last vantage point utilized in the story is Dennis is life outside of the imposing building where he is keeping the girl's hostage. We see them go about his daily chores always returning to the utilitarian building where they live and hold the girls.

Claire had wanted the three of them just rush Dennis in a berserker like fashion, but Casey notes that he’s much stronger than them at her co-captives of our to dilettante successfully implement such an attack. Casey has always been the outside of in a high school, after the birthday party out of a social obligation in Claire’s fear of social media objections. Claire continues to try to find an escape locating a closed-door duct in the ceiling but against Casey’s advice begins to break away. Dennis walks in and eventually all three girls now held in separate rooms. While Claire and Marcia cry while trying to devise futile plans, Casey is observing every little nuance of her surroundings. She realizes that the man in the know with their captor is exhibiting different personalities including a man and woman arguing with each other, Dennis and Patricia, as well as a nine-year-old boy, Hedwig. He appears to be learning disabled and jealous of the other alternate personalities. Casey has some limited success in manipulating this naïve personality. Meanwhile, Dr. Fletcher is upset because she had been receiving some late-night emails when unknown alternate warning her. That is the most substantial evidence she has that Dennis is broken free and taking control. Confronting Dennis with this information she also wants him that there is an action pre-configured in his mind. If she calls out his full name, Kevin Wendell Crumb, the benign core personality to preemptively take control.

The success of the story is completely dependent upon how well the two characters brought to life by their respective actors. The obvious answer to this can be summed up as ‘spectacular.' Mr. McAvoy can manifest the nuances that differentiate the personalities finally controlled use body language involved in inflecting. In all only eight personalities seen, several only on video files Casey finds on his personal computer. One of the most difficult transformations Mr. McAvoy accomplishes is Dennis trying to impersonate Barry. He exhibits a person who is presumably gay, talented in fashion design with OCD. There are some missteps in his impersonation, some mistakes such as overplaying the OCD and forgetting the sample drawings for the doctor’s perusal. Dr. Fletcher realizes that the real Barry would never forget his precious drawings.

There is one component to Dr. Fletcher’s hypothesis that does not have a counterpart in the real world. Dr. Fletcher is certain that a fragmented personality as seen in DID not diminish the patient but enhances them beyond what is considered to be human limitations. Alternates not only manifest in changes in personality but I manifested with explicit physiological differences as well. For example, about 23 personalities only Dennis is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Each personality has the potential for different physiology, differences in abilities and expertise, actually becoming the person both physically and mentally. Dr. Fletcher is seen being rejected by her peers for forwarding this hypothesis, but it is crucial to the dénouement. Be certain to stay for the entire movie, the last few moments containing nicely planned little surprise.

bulletAlternate Ending & Deleted Scenes with Introductions by M. NIght Shayamalan.
bulletThe Making of Split
bulletThe Many Face of James McAvoy
bulletThe Filmmakker's Eys: M. Night Shyamalan.

Posted 04/21/2017

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