As erratic and uneven as most of M. Night Shyalaman’s efforts, Split follows three girls (Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey, Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire, and Jessica Sula’s Marcia) as they’re kidnapped by a mentally-unbalanced figure (James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb) with almost two dozen separate personalities. Split, which runs 118 minutes, stands as Shyamalan’s longest movie to date and the movie certainly feels palpably padded out, with the often distractingly laid-back pacing compounded by an ongoing emphasis on less-than-captivating elements – including a series of flashbacks to Casey’s childhood and a recurring emphasis on the exploits of Kevin’s concerned psychiatrist (Betty Buckley’s Karen Fletcher). It’s nevertheless impossible to deny that Split, though rarely engrossing, remains quite watchable throughout, with the movie kicking off with an absolutely enthralling opening sequence and benefiting substantially from McAvoy’s frequently showstopping performance as the deranged central character (ie the actor does a superb job of creating a series of impressively distinct personalities, including a nine-year-old boy). There’s little doubt, as well, that Shyamalan’s expected emphasis on stylish visuals plays an integral role in confirming the film’s mild success, while the story’s coda is nothing short of jaw-dropping in its unexpectedness and audacity (ie it forces the viewer to rethink and recontextualize everything they’ve just seen) – which ultimately ensures that Split continues the momentum established by Shyamalan’s comeback endeavor, 2015’s The Visit.
*** out of ****