It's a fun gimmick having McAvoy act so many characters, but Split is mostly a one-idea, one-note film. It's even generally one emotion since Shyamalan doesn't give it a truly scary ante until the last act, while the beginning emotions aren't at all terrifying, but are actually humorous. Shyamalan again approaches his material with gloves, but this time he doesn't have the strong dramatic element of his best films.
Maybe bottoming out was the best thing that could happen to Shyamalan, for reasons not so much to do with his films as with his audience's perception of him. Walk into a film like The Village knowing it's from a "serious" director, and you might roll your eyes (as critics did) when it goes preposterous. But walk into Split only knowing it's a split-personality B-movie, and you'll be surprised how serious he can get.
After a decade of misfires and worse Shyamalan impresses here with a tale of abduction and multiple personalities. The film works due to a committed performance by James McAvoy and able support from both Anya Taylor-Joy and rising star Haley Lu Richardson. Usually Shyamalan's scripts collapse under their own weight but this one is pretty tightly wound introducing a mythology and possibly adding to an old one as well.
I should stop watching thrillers. They always get me so bored. Here the acting of James McAvoy is something to applaud. It is. But it seems a waste to put to it to use in a story that drifts into this. Thrillers always seem to use the plot as the pretext. It does not matter if it's Aliens in your belly, snakes in your plane, a prison guard after your, split personality, it's just the excuse to try and scare(?) you.*
Why do I keep returning to Shyamalan hoping for another Sixth Sense or The Village? This film could have gone way better with less - less crash, less boom, less bang. I don't mind the concept (and I'm really fond of building this as a non-official-sequel) but let's be honest: with 20 less minutes and an ever smaller cast this would be tight. Another blockbuster fail, in my opinion.
Anya Taylor-Joy could be a little less goth-ish, but at least we got a smart gurl right from the start. James McAvoy was brilliant, and Betty Buckley's Dr. Fletcher was also a captivating character. The outcome of all the build-up was a bit anticlimactic and the nod to "Unbroken" was unexpected but also kinda meh... it was a decent film in the director's career but not one of his best. And neither was "Split".
In his remake of Room, MNS employs the quintessential American MO, i.e. bigger is better. So instead of a single victim, we get three. Instead of a single kidnapper, we get 23 (24?). And since this is an American movie, it must feature recurring tropes like child abuse and superheroes or abused superheroes. Predictably, the outcome is a quintessential American movie whose appeal is limited to American audiences.
Mocked and shunned for the past decade, Shyamalan has proven to be the most resilient of 90's Hollywood "auteurs". Though not an improvement on his earlier films, SPLIT is nevertheless a reconciliation of sorts with fans. Night is helped by McAvoy who delivers his most memorable performance. And despite genre trappings, characters are allowed a genuine emotional vulnerability. The memo being: 'it's OK to be lonely'.