Monday, 23 January 2017


Universal Pictures

One of James McAvoy's best film performances was in the 2013 film Filth. Based on an Irvine Welsh novel, McAvoy, who for once got to speak with his native Scottish accent, played a corrupt and unhinged police detective, as partial to illegal substances as he was outbreaks of violence.

It made for a refreshing change from his most famous (and recurring) role, that of the level-headed Charles Xavier: the bald-headed voice of reason to, and leader of the X-Men. McAvoy also sports a bald pate in his latest role, but thankfully he's bad -- Filth level bad, and pretty good at it -- in M. Night Shyamalan's Split.

He plays Barry. And Dennis. And Patricia. They're just three of the 23 alternate personalities who reside in the mind and body of Kevin Wendell Crumb. Unfortunately for Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy; unrecognisable from last year's The Witch), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson; recently seen in Edge of Seventeen), and Marcia (Jessica Sula), Dennis, in partnership with Patricia, has taken control of Kevin's body; abducting the three adolescents for part of a ritual which will supposedly bring forth The Beast.

But Kevin's concerned therapist, Doctor Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), can't be sure if The Beast is a yet-to-be-introduced alternate residing within her patient, or a mythic delusion cooked up by Dennis and Patricia. Or something more sinister. Unaware of the abduction, the good doctor senses that something is off -- more so -- with Kevin (one of his alters keeps emailing her in the middle of the night).

And like Dr. Fletcher, the audience will be waiting -- more expectantly than patiently -- to discover the truth. As with all Shyamalan films, you are always waiting for the inevitable twist that will pull the rug out from under you; forcing the viewer to question and reconfigure everything that has come before.

That reveal when it does come won't seem all that surprising, and even less worth the wait. But your patience will be rewarded by McAvoy's impressive performance. Though we only get to see a handful of Kevin's alters -- the aforementioned Dennis, Barry and Patricia, as well as the impish pre-teen Hedwig -- McAvoy manages to make them distinctly different; altering his voice, posture and even his facial muscles so we know just who is in the driving seat of Kevin's psyche at any one time. He's scarily good.

Split is more intriguing than scary, but it may arguably be Shyamalan's best film for quite some time.

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