Three school girls are kidnapped on the way back from a birthday party, but their kidnapper is no ordinary psycho. 23 three personalities live in his head. Some of them want to hurt the girls, the others want to protect them. But all of them are waiting for the coming of The Beast - a hidden identity that will forever change the understanding of multiple personality disorder.
Thriller lovers will find the premise of SPLIT familiar. What sets this film apart is one great performance from James McAvoy, who portrays the many faces of an MPD sufferer with great timing and authenticity. This is great material to work with and McAvoy gives it his everything. No CGI required for his incredible transformations and this one performance is something to talk about.
His younger co-star Anya Taylor-Joy as the brooding Casey, one of the kidnapped girls who has guts and a secret of her own, proves that a damsel in distress can be an interesting character. Her role is multilayered and well written. Her troubled childhood comes in flashbacks, that tell a story far more distressing then the one we are focused on.
Parallel to the abduction plot, there's a storyline of the relationship between the patient and the Doctor, A psychiatrist played by Betty Buckley (of CARRIE fame) who gives a sympathetic and sincere performance. She is incredibly likeable and probably the only character you don't want to get killed in the end.
The film establishes the atmosphere of a family thriller, only to shatter it all in the third act, which is nerve-wracking and genuinely unsettling. With its simplicity plot-wise SPLIT manages to deliver on suspense perfectly. You might have seen it all before but you will be biting your knuckles all the same. M Night Shyamalan knows how to scare and surprise. He made a career of it and it seems to be taking a second breath.
SPLIT could have been a perfect thriller if not for a disappointing ending. A weak finale is a problem for many thrillers, and while SPLIT is trying it's best to wrap up all the loose ends it does not deliver anything exciting. The battered beauty against the beast finale is only barely entertaining. The biggest twist comes after the credits. Watch out for a fun cameo from a classic Shyamalan film. Is he trying to establish his own franchise? That remains to be seen.