Let’s face it: I found The Great Wall disappointing. You can read that review to find out why. But, anyway, maybe I should balance out that experience with a better one.
Hey, Watson liked M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, Split. Maybe that turned out better.
Hey, good news! It did!
Here’s the thing: Shyamalan actually is a pretty good director. It’s as a writer that he often fails. He can create moody shots, tense situations, and he generally knows what he’s doing behind the camera. Let him make B-movies and he’d probably be fine. And for all that he gets (legitimate) grief for some of his dumber projects, there’s a certain beauty of composition to his trailers even for stupid stuff like The Happening. When he writes himself a good script, he does pretty well.
More good news: Split has a pretty good script.
In fact, normally January releases are the detritus left over after the awards bait has been released, but someone at Universal felt confident enough about Split to send it out to critics early. This isn’t the usual crap that comes out early in the year. It helps that James McCoy gives a good performance in the challenging role of the man at the middle of it all.
Three girls are at a birthday party at the local mall: birthday girl Claire, her good friend Marcia, and outsider Casey. As they are getting ready to leave, Claire’s dad is knocked out and the girls are drugged and taken away by a mysterious man none of them know. Who is this guy? Well, when he takes them, his name is Dennis. Other times he appears in drag as Miss Patricia. Still other times he’s a nine year old boy named Hedwig. There are others. The different personalities seem to have different ticks and some are even stronger than others.
Shyamalan’s script juggles the different scenes well. Besides the girls locked in some sort of industrial location in an unknown place, there are moments when Dennis/Particia/Hedwig go to see their psychologist, that woman’s own quest to make Disassociate Personality Disorder accepted, and flashbacks to Casey’s own childhood. Casey has some dark secrets of her own that make her smarter in how to get out of a trap like this than the other two. She knows a thing or two about survival. She’s going to need that before “the Beast” shows up, whatever that means.
Complete with the requisite Shyamalan twist, one that flows naturally from the narrative, this was a darn good thriller. Let’s say eight and a half unexpected cameos out of ten.